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Use Writing Tool to Organize Word Choice

Use Writing Tool to Organize Word Choice


As writers, we hear that voice sells. Finding voice is an elusive task and boils down to word choice + sentence structure, two things you can concentrate on to change and improve. In today’s post, I’m going to use writing tools to help organize word choice so that your writing captures the right voice you’re looking for in your work-in-progress.

In October, I was blessed with a gift scholarship and attended the James River Writers annual conference and landed on an interesting workshop titled “DocuPoetry with Wendy DeGroat” and a lesson about word choice fell into place. Authors can use the same historical facts in different ways. College professors will use the facts to analyze and distribute their findings in a certain voice, but creative writers can use the same facts and organize the words and sentences in a way that deliver those same facts with a very different flavor of writing. I’d never heard of docupoetry, but things fell into place on this ladder:

Where would you place “fiction” on the line above?

In November, I tried to do some mini-research and highlight a few inspiring Indigenous people for Native American Heritage Month. I managed to get through several and then landed on some names that sent me down the research rabbit hole! I realized a couple things:

1- There are many people whose stories tugged at my heartstrings. I know those stories will need proper attention to be retold.

2- And, I realized that the words Native American Heritage Month shouldn’t be the focus of one month in our calendar year; it’s ok to distribute information and tell their stories throughout the many moons of the year.

We know word choice affects the tone and mood of a piece of writing. We want word choice to tug at the reader’s heartstrings. When I was in the classroom, teachers started using those colorful paint chips to record vocabulary and various “shades” of synonyms. The following word ladder shows the same thing:

Choosing the right term can set the tone and mood and grab the heart of the reader. How will you sort and choose the right words to increase the emotional appeal of your current work-in-progress?

Lastly, author Colleen Mariah Rae discusses a continuum trait model in her book Movies in the Mind: How to Build a Short Story. She explains that readers need to be engaged in the character’s obstacles and dilemmas. Asking the character a couple of key questions can help you (the author) figure out why s/he makes choices. The two questions Rae recommends asking:

1- What is the character’s greatest strength?

2- What get the character into the most trouble?

On page 74 -75, Rae provides this conversation that accompanies this word ladder above:

(Character name), what is your greatest strength?

     “I’m not sure.”

“Well, what gets you into the most trouble?”

     “Collecting things, I guess.”

“Why do you collect things?”

“Oh, just to be safe. You never know when you’ll need a bit of string.”

The character’s WHY is revealed along with words that can be used to describe her strength and weakness. Can you use the same technique to interview your main character?

You may have noticed I’m a collector of books as well as a research nerd who loves to learn. I hope these voice tools and craft snippets are helpful to you. I hope your writing voice grows out of these seeds of knowledge.

Happy Writing,




Children's Author and Educator

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