The Importance of Building Vocabulary


C’est ne ai pas ma faute- translates to It’s not my fault! I found this written on the cover of my french journal from about five years back. I had written it twice. Apparently, I felt I would need to use this phrase in France, a lot. The other phrase written across the green cover is Où va t-on? This means, where are you going? I envision this quaint scenario of me in France: Hundreds of French people running away while I yell out, “Où va t-on? Où va t-on!” With a childish stomp of my foot I cry, “C’est ne ai pas ma faute!” Then I pout. Beautiful.

The phrase although neglected all these years, gathering dust on my journal, seemed fitting for the context of this blog. I’ve been thinking about language and vocabulary, in particular, my own. I think I may spend a portion of my speaking life grunting and pointing. Instead of saying, “sit in that finely crafted maple chair”, I say, “sit there- grunt”. This is problematic when writing. While I was feverishly letting my story pour from my fingers onto the screen, I would come to a sense of setting. Where are my characters? What is around them? My brain deeply involved in the moment would suddenly retard and forget how to describe a room. Are there facades or mosaics and do they adorn? I’d write a note to myself like this:

This character moves toward the other character to whisper (you need to come back and put some setting in, where are they?)in her ear.

Write what you know. We’ve heard it hundreds of times but suddenly I was stricken with a fear that I didn’t know how to describe anything. I have a weak vocabulary! I can not paint a scene with words! It is not this severe, but it does seem like my brain shuts down or freezes sometimes, and I can’t think of another word for winding or what that thing that people sit on is called. My story takes place in Prague. The city is one of the characters, in a way or has potential to be. I don’t have to be exact but I do need to be able to describe things. I know the words but sometimes they are hiding in some ribbon of brain matter and I need a little jog. It’s nice to have a vocab journal. If I’m stuck on something because my mind is blank I can flip through my vocab journal, and look…”oh woven! That’s the word I couldn’t think of.” Snapping of fingers. Then I write, The steel railing around the balcony was woven like an English braid, or something lame like that.  I’ve been looking through all these architecture and building books just to polish up on words that I don’t use in my every day speak but want to use in my writing because they will make a ten word sentence into four, and this is a good thing.

The vocabulary book is not a new idea. I had a teacher in school that said we should be collecting words (Not words you really wouldn’t use like baksheesh- which means payment, such as a bribe, to expedite service. Maybe you would use that word but I don’t know how I can honestly use that word. Hell, I don’t know maybe someday but I’m not going to focus on it. I can see myself using the words curling taper.) Luv YA also has a fun exercise of building a vocabulary journal she calls it a word notebook, have I mentioned I think she’s great? Every other post she has some information and links to the publishing world giving me insight into a whole new arena. Not to mention her writing is so open and friendly, she’s a writing blog cheerleader.

Oh revisions? Start today.


One thought on “The Importance of Building Vocabulary

  1. Wow! You totally made my day!

    Ok, I saw no grunting in this post. It was beautifully written 🙂

    I totally grab from sources like you do with the architecture books. My characters all have a nature basis. The first one was simple: water. I grew up on the water and imagery for it is easy, accessible and everywhere. Plants I’m having a rough time with. You reminded me I need to grab some more gardening mags.

    Oh yeah, I really don’t garden *sigh*

    Good luck and keep up the great blogging and writing!

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