Friday, 10 June 2011

Word Choice Drools

"Waves broke against its supports. It had a skyline as intricate and twisted as a city's. Above the three leg-pillars was a cluster of seemingly random spires, and cranes moving like clawed hands; and over them all a huge minaret of girders soared and drooled fire." -China Mieville, The Scar

I read this book years ago, but some of the descriptors have stuck with me--first and foremost China's use of the word "drooled." In the above paragraph it's fire, but that's not all; water drools, blood drools, venom drools. It's a slow, sluggish, grimy word. I imagine the water to be almost more solid than liquid, slowly spreading out like gobs of glue.

Now, we've all heard it before; how you write and what words you pick are important. And they are, they really, really are.

Take the above example. How would the imagery change if the skyline was solid and blocky, the cranes moved like dead trees in the wind, the minaret was a tower, or the fire was spat? Maybe it's not that big a difference. Or maybe it's the difference between "died" and "was murdered."

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