My friend and fellow scribe Dan is in town and, because we’re so writerly and all, we were discussing what we do when we can’t find that perfect word or phrase to finish out a sentence. He had so many awesome suggestions that I decided he should help me write this article – lucky him! So here are the combined efforts of our brains on the topic of what to do when you’re linguistically stumped: shade urban dictionary
Save It For Later. When I was writing my first book, Don’t Sleep With Your drummer, I wanted to make it as hilarious and fun to read as possible, which meant I needed lots of slam dunk one liners and creative ways to say things. I wanted people to slap the book down at the end of a sentence and run off in search of someone – “Stanly, you have to let me read this to you – it’s killing me!” I will say right now, coming up with slam dunk one liners and creative ways to say things isn’t the easiest task in the world. So instead of spending hours staring at the page trying to make myself laugh, if nothing came to me right away, I would type in the word “blah” where I needed the perfect joke or phrase and continue writing. Then, at the end of my workday, I’d do a search, find all the “blahs” and keep them in mind as I took a shower, hung out with friends, rode my bike, etc.
Things pop into your mind at the strangest times – how often have you been trying to think of someone’s name or a song or something and suddenly, while talking recipes on your phone with your mother, you shout “Tawny Kataen! THAT’S the name of the chick from the Whitesnake video!” This is why I’m such a stickler for always carrying a notebook with you. Strokes of genius come at you when you least expect it, so instead of stopping at a speed bump while you’re writing, leave a place holder and always have a pen handy.
Use a Lifeline. Call someone. Friends are there to laugh with you, to drive you to the airport and to provide you with words and phrases when you’re stuck. Like so many other things that are utterly confounding to you that are total no-brainers to your friends, the words that have had you pulling your hair out all night can be effortlessly blurted out by someone else. Hell, even huge chunks of articles can be blurted out by friends. On that note, here are a few words from Senor Brilliant, Daniel Kusner:
Gustave Flaubert (“Madame Bovary,” 1857) was famously known for flogging himself to death, searching for just the right word to to describe the marble shade of the Tunisian sunset near the Red Sea.
Flaubert was a constipated perfectionist. Historians say he’d spend a week pounding out a single page. Back then, there was no Google – Flaubert had to plow through his bookshelves, crack spines and painstakingly scour indexes while saying aloud, “L, M, N, O …. Ah-hah, P! Pearled, Pearler… There it is, Pearlescent.”
Thankfully, word hunting is now just a few mouseclicks away.
3 SITES TO UNCLOG YOUR CREATIVE WORD FLOW:
UrbanDictionary.com In 2008, Time magazine named UD one of the 50 best Web sites – it’s the shiznit in lingo and new definitions. Slang is one of the best ways to punch up your prose.
UD provides synonmys, related concepts, jazzy phrases, images, tags and even words that have the same sorta spelling.
For “silver,” a regular dictionary will result with “Shiny grayish-white metal.” The urban version will give you fresh jargon to play with, like “bling” and “platinum,” and inspire you to think about phrases like “Silverado” or “silverwear.”
RhymeZone.com Don’t get left in the lurch while conducing your search. Eminem knows how to turn catchy phrases with just the right measured cadence.
Let’s say you want to play with the word “ray,” and you’ve already used the phraase “Ray of light.” RZ finds corresponding options that sound the same, with synonyms, definitions, homophones, similar sounds, same consonants and related words.
With that “Ray” search, you could score ideas like like, “Hoo-ray,” “disarray” and “portray.”
Edinburgh Associative Thesaurus Still brainstorming? EAT can evoke connections between words, and EAT searches in two directions – stimulus and response.