Monday Musings: The Right Word


by Kathleen Valentine

therightwordSome years back I was reading a detective thriller that had me quite intrigued. The hero was a big, tough, former Army Ranger with a spine of steel. The bad guy was really, really deliciously evil. It was toward the end of the book and the chase was on. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and then the bad thing happened—the author made a terrible word choice. The bad guy was trying to lose the detective in a heavily wooded ravine and our big, tough Army Ranger “scampered up the hill in pursuit.” What the heck? “Scampered”??? Since when do big, tough Army Rangers “scamper.” I was horrified.

I finished the book and it was a good one but I have to confess that the use of that word hit me in the face and shattered the mood of that scene. What was the author thinking?

Maybe because I am a writer who loves words and who can obsess for days over finding the correct word when I am working, it was more jarring to me than to most readers but I learned a lesson. Be careful with your words. This is particularly true when writing dialog. It is not easy to capture dialog that rings true to the ear but it goes a long way toward making your writing authentic.

Because I’ve lived in the Boston area for the last thirty years I am particularly picky about characters who are supposed to be from this area. I love Dennis Lehane because he’s a master at it. Some of the dialog in his Mystic River sounds like conversations I hear on a daily basis. It’s easy to think, in this electronic age, that regional differences in speech aren’t as distinctive as they once were but this is not always true.

In my series of Marienstadt stories, set in a rural Pennsylvania Dutch town, I am always trying to weave in words that convey the people of that area. One such word is “pritneer.” I am reasonably sure that word is used in other parts of the country, but I can’t quite imagine a conversation in my hometown without pritneer in it. It is rather like “prolly” here in New England. Folks in other parts of the country prolly use that word, too, but it’s pritneer impossible to go a day or two without hearing it here.

In Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast he tells a story that I have always loved. One day he and Ezra Pound were walking in Paris when they encountered James Joyce, who was walking along with a very worried look on his face. They greeted him and asked how the writing was going. Joyce frowned and said, “I wrote seven words today.” Since Joyce was a notoriously slow writer they assured him that seven words was quite good for him. “The problem is,” Joyce responded, “I don’t know if they’re the right words.”

I know there is a school of thought that says writers should never resort to using a Thesaurus—that any word you have to search for in a Thesaurus will sound forced or unnatural, but I don’t agree. Sometimes I know what I’m trying to say but the right word eludes me. Recently I was working on a story and was unsatisfied with all the words that I kept trying out for a particular character. She was “dictatorial.” No, that’s not right. She was “imperious.” No, totally wrong. How about “overbearing?” Close, but too heavy-handed. I finally went to the Thesaurus and there I found my word—”bossy.” She was “bossy.” Perfect.


Focus Friday: Deceive, by Raine Thomas


An Estilorean novel

Deceive-FINAL-ebooksmThe child laughed and nodded, making her blonde curls bob. Hatred burned bright and hot in Metis’ chest as she watched the interaction. While she had been imprisoned, the Mercesti elder had been living a life of pleasure with his avowed…the Kynzesti female named Tate. They and their companions had robbed Metis of thirteen years of her existence.

They didn’t deserve the family they had made. They didn’t deserve happiness.

She was determined to take it from them.

Zachariah’s gaze suddenly shifted to the tree where she stood. Metis darted out of sight and stood absolutely still. She had to force herself not to flee and reveal herself. Fear had her heart thudding in her chest.

Her own reaction infuriated her. He would not hold that kind of sway over her, she silently vowed.

Soon enough, he would be the one who was terrified.

“Daddy, that’s not fair!”

Metis dared another glance and watched the boy, Ryder, rush back and tug on his father’s tank top. She was relieved when Zachariah’s attention turned from her position.

“Eden should be with Mommy,” the boy said, glaring at his sister. “She’s inta-ruptin’ you too!”

“Enough, Ryder.” Zachariah lowered Eden to the ground, brushing his hand absently over her hair in a way that confirmed to Metis that he held affection for her. “Take your sister with you. Uncle Tiege will keep an eye on you both until I finally finish this bloody conversation.”

Ryder’s eyes widened. “You’re not s’posed to say bloody, Daddy. I’m tellin’ Mommy.”

Metis didn’t hear Zachariah’s response. She was too focused on the smaller female, who had apparently lost interest in the conversation. The child bent down and picked up the wooden sword that was nearly the same size as she was, gave it a curious look, then tossed it back to the ground. As Derian wisely bent to pick up the sword to keep it out of reach, the girl skipped away.

Right to Metis.

In an instant, Metis’ plans changed. She realized that she didn’t have to kill the Mercesti elder to get her revenge. During her imprisonment, she had learned about the sentiment Estilorians harbored for each other. She had learned how to use that kind of useless emotion to manipulate her captors and escape.

She knew she could take something from Zachariah. Something that would hurt just as much as peeling his flesh or ripping out his heart.

Maybe even more.

Just as Derian started after the child, Metis stepped out from behind the tree. She was watching the little girl, but registered that the Mercesti commander hesitated. The child’s gaze lifted to Metis as she stopped in front of her. She started to smile as Metis reached for her, but then her expression froze. Realizing the child sensed danger, Metis acted quickly, grabbing her before she could run.


Zachariah’s desperate cry had all activity in the area ceasing. Metis met his gaze an instant before she teleported with the screaming child in her grasp, and she knew she had been right. It was the Mercesti elder who was now terrified.

He knew he would never see his little girl again.

About Deceive

When the elders imprisoned Metis, they took every precaution to protect the Estilorian plane against her evil.

It wasn’t enough.

Now she’s escaped, and no one is safe. Fueled by hatred, she wastes no time imposing vengeance on those who captured her. She knows the surest way to destroy their lives is by taking what they love most, and she begins with a child named Eden.

Years later, Eden remembers none of her former life. She serves her “Master,” unaware of the family still searching for her. But as her eighteenth birthday approaches, memories begin to surface, and she questions her circumstances for the first time.

Eden’s confusion mounts when she’s joined by Connor, a handsome Elphresti male who reveals things that shatter her reality. They’ll end up on the run, knowing they can trust only each other. After all, Metis will stop at nothing to get them back, and she thrives on her ability to deceive.

Pre-order links:

About the author

Raine-Thomas-Headshot-small-233x300Raine Thomas is the multiple award-winning author of bestselling Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Known for character-driven stories that inspire the imagination, Raine has signed with multiple award-winning producer Chase Chenowith of Back Fence Productions to bring her popular Daughters of Saraqael trilogy to the big screen. She’s a proud indie author who is living the dream. When she isn’t writing or glued to e-mail or social networking sites, Raine can usually be found vacationing with her husband and daughter on one of Florida’s beautiful beaches or crossing the border to visit with her Canadian friends and relatives.

Where to find her


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