10X Your Thriller Vocabulary
Imagine if you had the writing vocabulary of a New York Times bestselling author and their editor. What if you could sit down and write the perfect chase scene or describe the movement of characters in your novel with relative ease.
No more racking your brain for the perfect word or giving yourself excuses to why your novel isn’t done. The words flow smoothly and effortlessly.
That is the goal of every writer, but unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. Sure, there are gifted writers with an infinite amount of descriptions and phrases in their mind who can knock out a couple of New York Times bestsellers every year, but for most of us, the writing process is slow and not always the most productive. Why? Because if you’re like me, you don’t have a massive vocabulary of bestseller caliber phrases and descriptive words at your fingertips.
That is until now…
IN THIS POST…
I’m going to show you how to expand your writing vocabulary using a simple process that works every time. Plus, I’m going to give you a download that will provide you with a head start on expanding your writing vocabulary today!
In the past if I wanted to describe a character movement in a work in progress, I probably had no more than 10 go to phrases or words that I could pull from memory. That’s it. I just didn’t have the depth on my bench to choose a unique description or phrase each time it was required. Instead, I had to conduct research to find the words that best describe what I was trying to convey to my reader and that took time.
Over the years I came to realize word research was my most significant time suck to completing a novel. I was continually having difficulty finding a word or series of words that described fully what I wanted the reader to understand or visualize without having to conduct research on some level. My rough draft was littered with the same descriptive character movements page after page.
I’m not talking about complete paragraphs or long descriptive situations either, but the descriptive words or phrases that get the point across in as few words as possible.
For example, I tend to overwrite. If someone is moving from one side of a party room to another or leaving the room, my first draft will read something like this:
Michael stood and walked toward the front door weaving around the partygoers as he went. He glanced around the room as he gripped the doorknob. A moment later he was gone.
Clearly, that’s unedited and maybe a little exaggerated, but you get the point. There are too many useless words, and the entire situation can be summed up much like this:
Michael ambled through the crowd, not in any particular hurry and out the front door.
Depending on the point I’m trying to get across to the reader I could edit it further to read:
Michael wondered away.
Michael walked away.
Michael walked off.
Michael stepped out of the room.
There are obviously many more possibilities for describing a person walking across a room, but how many can you pull from memory and what can you add to each description to make it unique without having to take the time to brainstorm each and every movement? Again, if you’re like me, it wasn’t many before I needed to start digging to expand the manuscripts vocabulary.
It may sound like a no brainer, and it probably is, but when I stumbled across this idea on how to expand my writing vocabulary I stopped everything and worked on it for over a week. Here’s my solution.
I mine bestselling thrillers for character movements, and I record each and every description or phrase.
By the end of a week, I mined 3 bestselling thrillers of 656 character movements with 414 being completely unique. I can describe a person walking across a room with 56 unique descriptions. I can show 116 generic character movements that bring realism to my manuscript. I ended with over 80 different facial expressions in my database. And the best part?
All of these are best seller level writing!
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Want to mine your own genre specific novels and expand your thriller vocabulary? Here’s a simple way to mine the book and keep it all organized.
Make a list of the elements of writing you’d like to build a vocabulary around. Some areas to consider are:
- Character movement (running, walking, standing, small movements)
- Character descriptions (facial features, clothing descriptions)
- Setting descriptions (weather, building features, outdoor descriptions)
Create a spreadsheet or simple Word doc with each topic focus and begin scanning a novel of your choice for each category. Record every description or phrase that matches your topic. Don’t worry too much about duplicates. Just like writing a first draft the point of the exercise is to finish the entire novel. You can delete duplicates later.
It may take a little time to become organized, but once you get a flow, it moves quickly. After all, you’re not really reading, but scanning for catchphrases for your particular category.
TIP: Dictation software works great for this exercise. I choose a couple specific categories, for example walking and running and then I dictate using Dragon 12 dictation software. Once I find a word or phrase that meets the walking or running description I speak the words into the microphone and never have to touch the keyboard. I can go through an entire novel with those two categories in about 30 minutes. If I’m looking for additional descriptions, I rinse and repeat.
Once I’ve finished, I delete the duplicates, and either keep the list up on a second monitor for easy access while I’m writing, or print it out.
I’ve managed to save hours of research time and can easily scan from my list and add the description or phrase to my manuscript in seconds.
Give it a Try!
If you’re looking to expand your writing vocabulary take this process for a spin. At the very least you’ll come away with additional descriptions and phrases you can use in your next manuscript. After some time, you’ll naturally be able to pull dozens of descriptive words and phrases from memory just like the New York Times best-selling authors!