I am officially back from my hiatus! I am still stuck in high school, and literally, time seems to have slowed down to a crawl ever since school begun just so it can personally torture me for as long as possible. (Love you too, time!) To kick off being back, I am questioning something that most writers think we should do: have a good vocabulary.
I personally have encouraged you in the past to have a good vocabulary; I literally gave out a freebie for this purpose. And I still think that you need to use more words than ‘said’ ‘big’ ‘small’ ‘told’ ‘talk’ ‘go’, and so on.
But there are boundaries as to how much prose you should use!
My family started listening to books by Brandon Mull on audible in September. During breakfast and lunch, my sisters and I would listen to Fablehaven. At dinner, we listened to Five Kingdoms with my dad.
Five Kingdoms is newer than Fablehaven, and I quickly could see that I not only liked the reader from Five Kingdoms better, I also liked the story. Do not worry, Fablehaven fans, I am not here today to criticise the book
too much. Instead, we’re going to focus on one of the reasons I didn’t like the book very much: Mull’s vocabulary.
Quick Story about Vocabulary!
A few years ago, my sister, Mary (you can check out her blog HERE!) and I began writing some stories together, in a sense. They were the same characters, with the same personalities. the same age, appearance, world in general, and, well, everything. The only difference was the plot lines.
She was smart and saved her’s (I threw mine out because I am a writer and I hate what I write) and this past summer, she read some of them to me. We had a laugh over the vocabulary she had used. Those books were the first ones that we really wrote in seriousness and were mostly intended for humor. But as we wrote those first serious books ever, we literally were using the dictionary on the iPad – which was supposed to be for school – to look up different words.
I think we both used the same word twice, once for ‘funny’, and once for ‘eating’. (Or maybe it was nutritious??)
That’s funny and all, but what’s the point, Julia? 😑
There is a line between good vocabulary and no one cares vocabulary. The no one cares vocabulary was illustrated most talentedly by Brandon Mull during Fablehaven. But, as I mentioned, Fablehaven is an older book than Five Kingdoms, yet I still liked Five Kingdoms better. What gives? Shouldn’t his writing still be stuffed with flowery language?
Before this book, I already had this idea, but it solidified it in my mind. We writers go through phases, and there is one where we use all the vocabulary we can get our hands on so that we sound important.
Now, while this may work with school – teachers seem to love big words – this is not so great for readers. They are here to get involved in a story, not try to figure out what something means! (I actually didn’t know what some of the words Brandon Mull used were)
There is a fine line of using enough vocabulary to be interesting, not-repetitive, and descriptive (the good stuff from vocabulary) and being confusing (the bad). As time goes on, we will have to face a phase where we want to use lots of big words, but shouldn’t.
Here are a few ways to know if your vocabulary is too much:
- The words are humongous
- It could be stated in a much simpler way
- Picture five people, a mixture of friends and family; do they know what the word you just used means? (Doesn’t count if you’re all geniuses and/or writing professors 😂)
- You can use fewer words to state the same thing, with less huge words involved.
- There’s a super huge word on every single page
Some big words are good! Don’t get me wrong! But if you use too many, it will keep readers less into the story and more in their dictionaries. Bleh.
I had an idea during my hiatus of a series, partly inspired by Fablehaven and its diverse vocabulary.
What if I do posts on things we can learn from books and movies, from a writer’s perspective, that I read/watch? It would take up only one post a month or so and would vary depending on how much I liked or disliked the book or movie.
(And while we’re at it, I am going to mention that my other idea for a series on music suggestions is going to be in my monthly newsletter instead of as a series! The list of music suggestions will be updated in a document on my Resources page – remember, it’s a password protected page that only those on my email list can get into! The password is changed monthly.)
How big is your vocabulary?
Have you ever read Fablehaven or Five Kingdoms?
Do you get what I meant in this post?