Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Using Contrasting Words in Novels Sod Off or No Thank You

Getting readers’ attention in novels is never easy, but I like to surprise the reader by throwing in unexpected words within prose. I do this by lulling a reader into a certain mood within the story and then to throw in a displaced word. the mood might be soft, exotic or elevated. Soft sounding words might be used such as silk, acquisition or cologne. And then, pow, you put in the word gag or smack or garbage within the mix.

See my video clip on making your writing stand out with contrasting words

Rude and Polite Words Together

Lots of opportunities for creating contrast in literature can be used, for instance, a protagonist who thinks inappropriate thoughts whilst trying to behave with decorum, or a character that put into an awkward situation. Dialogue might be very proper, but the thought processes of the character might be very different, containing slang or swear words.

Mix Rude and Polite Words in Fiction
I used this opportunity for the main character of my novel who comes from a harsh background, but finds herself surrounded by people from privileged backgrounds. In order to integrate herself into the other world, she puts on a persona. She says ‘thank you,’ but in her head, wants to tell the other person to sod off. This contrast creates the opportunity to put rude and polite words together. The result might be funny or set up tension.

My video on using contrasting and the element of surprise in your novel writing.

Soft Words and Harsh Words in Literature

Thinking about how a word sounds, rather than its meaning can also create mood in writing. For instance, soft-sounding words might have sibilant consonants, or longer vowel-sounds. Examples of soft-sounding words are: shoe, stealth, broom, surreptitious, arrange, however, fiber, and so forth. Harsh sounding words might be: stuck, staple, pickaxe, spit, temper, break and fit.

Words with Soft Meanings and Harsh Meanings

Some words sound soft but have harsh meanings. I find such words sinister but love to use them in my novels. Such soft sounding sinister words are: slay, stealthy, harsh, harmful, nail, loathe and, well, sinister itself.

And again, some harsh sounding words have benevolent meanings, such as devote, kids, skip, duck, comic and slapstick. With practice, a tone can be set in novel writing, where an odd word can be dropped in. This will make the word stand out as well as the sentence. It is always worth checking the thesaurus for alternative words to the norm.

Making Words Stand out in Novel Writing

Great English Words
The English language is blessed with all sorts of words, including the soft Latin derivatives to the harsh Viking or Norse words, not forgetting other word sources such as French, African and Spanish. I also like to mix the old with the new, such as counterpane and naff. Slang, swear words and a fusion of two words are also great to use.

Examples of Writing by using Displaced Words

For examples of how I stuck out-of-place words in prose, check out the links to my blog novel, Nora. In the prologue, soft words are used, and then rude words were injected where least expected.

In this other excerpt, the main character’s thought processes contrast sharply with her surroundings. She does indeed think sod off instead of saying thank you.

Hated modern cliches in novel writing
Charles J Harwood thrillers on Amazon

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