Words, feelings and expression


There are times when you can go beyond reason and logic. If you are writing poetry, or want to add colour to descriptive prose, or need something to express feeling and emotion, you can draw on the rich vocabulary of English. I was taught this lesson over 50 years ago by my English teacher. He drew our attention to some lines in “The Eve of St Agnes”, by the great poet John Keats:

Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And threw warm gules on Madeleine’s fair breast

He pointed out that Keats could have written:

The moon shone through the window
And made red marks on Madeleine’s white chest

Even if you’re not keen on poetry, you can see the difference! Although you might regard the language as old-fashioned, you can see how the poet’s choice of words helps to create a picture in the mind of the reader. The words also help to arouse an emotional reaction in the reader’s mind. The same principle can apply to a novel. Let’s move forward 130 years to a
modern classic:

But she did not need to tell him why she had wrapped it up. The smell was already filling the room, a rich hot smell which seemed like an emanation from his early childhood, but which one did occasionally meet with even now, blowing down a passage-way before a door slammed, or diffusing itself mysteriously in a crowded street, sniffed for an instant and then lost again.

(George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Secker & Warburg, 1949. Extract used for educational purposes and fair review only, in terms of the Copyright Act.)

Notice, by the way, that the novel is not called 1984.

Suppose Orwell had written:

...The nice smell filled the room. It reminded him of something from his childhood which he had sensed at other times.

Dull, dull! Have another look at the original version. It is enhanced by the use of:

verbs filling, blowing, slammed, diffusing, sniffed
adjectives rich, hot, early, crowded
adverbs occasionally, mysteriously
simile like an emanation...
imagery ...passage-way... crowded street...

The choice of words and phrases makes a huge difference to the way you communicate your ideas to readers.

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