Writers and Prose; Using unique or unfamiliar words.
March 17, 2014 4 Comments
Do you recognize these words?
I subscribe to Dictionary.com’s Word-a-day feature and every day I receive a new word. That’s where these came from. It’s nice. I get to expand my vocabulary and hopefully fine new and interesting words to put in my stories. There’s only one drawback to my plan; what if the reader isn’t familiar with the word I’ve used?
I’ve come across a few stores that have used unfamiliar words, and I go and look them up, but that’s me. I love words and their origins, but not everyone is a logophile nor do they want, nor care to take the time to look up what an unfamiliar word means. Most of the time they’ll just skip over it and continue reading, so this begs the question; should you put these rare words into your story?
I guess it all depends on the type of story you’re writing. Some genres, like science fiction, thrive on the unfamiliar, and with historical fiction you can add to the authenticity of the plot by including forgotten words, but I think you have to be careful on the choice you make. No one purposely sets out to annoy their readers, but sometimes, something as small as a word they don’t know or think doesn’t belong, could do just that. Yes, there are people out there who will rail against you if they come across something they feel doesn’t ‘fit’. Go figure.
Now, I’m not saying to NOT put them in either. I know many people appreciate a robust vocabulary when they read, but I believe you need to think about what you really want to get across before you add that unfamiliar word. Will your choice enhance the story? Or will you come off looking like a pretentious twit.
Boffin – noun.
1. informal: (Brit) a scientist, especially one carrying out military research.
2. a person who has extensive skill or knowledge in a particular field.
3. informal: someone who is considered to be very clever.
Williwaw – noun
A violent squall that blows in near-polar latitudes; around the Straight of Magellan, Alaska and Aleutian islands.
Just thought you’d like to know.
So what do you think of unfamiliar words in a story?