Last week Gary Parkin wrote a very good blog post about word lists and why it’s a good idea to use one when you are writing. You can read what he had to say about it here. Basically, Gary makes the point that it can be useful to have a small lexicon of era/genre/character specific words which you can use to make your story more believable and timely. Gary puts it much better so you should go and read his post. I’ll wait ’til you come back.
There, good, isn’t it? This got me thinking. Firstly, it’s a bloody good idea, but there is another way I think the word list could be useful.
When I write, I like to pay attention to theme and metaphor. I usually get an image or a situation and use it to permeate all areas of my story. Take a short story I wrote called Breakers’ Yard (one of the stories in my anthology And The Angels Cried). It’s about how we treat our old people in homes and institutions, and I use the metaphor of ships to explore this. The protagonist’s father worked in the shipyard, but I also describe some of the characters in the old folk’s home using a seafaring metaphor. I like to think it brings together the story, making it more cohesive and adding depth.
As you can see in my previous post, I am currently working on a novel called The Knife Thrower’s Assistant. Knives play a big part of the story in a variety of ways. It struck me that a word list might be something I could use to help me add layers to my story. I’ll add phrases I can use, cliche’s I can subvert, allusions to popular culture, myth, history, and every stabby, cutty, knifey word I can think of. I won’t use them all, of course, but I will have a large enough repository to refer to when I’m trying to add depth and theme.
I’ll also be on the lookout for little nuggets of Italian life during World War 2 and information on European travelling circuses. So if you know of any good reference books or sites, please add them in the comments.
Thank you, Gary, for adding more work to my load. But as it was such good advice, I’ll let you off. This time.