Tag Archives: Dare

Prompt: Seabound

An elderly (wo)man lives in a city that’s submerged in the sea, which is one of several hundred all around the world. Tell the tale through his/her voice of why the population started to go underwater, and what made it work so well. Was there a disaster that caused it to happen, and who resisted it? Don’t forget to mention if anyone passed away or became a case study in what should or should not be done underwater, as well as how long ago it happened, and if it’s permanent.

– The Novice Wordsmith


During a fiction writing class, our professor gave us a sheet of words. It was titled, ‘Words all Writers Should Avoid Using.’

The other week, I was given another web page that was basically a full on rant about several different words that are used too often and should never be used. There were 5-10 words on the list.

My only problem with this is that each list is almost completely different. Some words are shared throughout– almost (hah), suddenly, nearly, really/very, like– considered weak and detrimental to the piece. Though I try to take each of these seriously and understand the reasoning for all of what I see, plenty of the words listed seem as a matter of opinion.

Of course, then you run into weak words versus strong words. There’s the old speech that Robin Williams gives in Dead Poets Society, proclaiming that the word ‘very’ is lazy, and encouraging them to use other words to describe it, because there are an abundant amount more than just the single word. To which, I will agree with this; there are words that are plain weak and water down the writing when used, but finding words that sound more beautiful in the stead of those is about more than just looking in the thesaurus. It’s about changing your language entirely.

The boulder was heavy in his palms.

Simple as it is, can be changed to…

The weight of the boulder was bearing down on him. 

In another example, I’ll take my sentence from earlier.

It’s almost completely different


each is totally different, save for some choices…

Substituting words can only go so far, so it becomes a challenge to make the language and sound more diverse, intriguing, capturing.

Which reminds me of a challenge issued by Chuck Palahniuk, to depart with all “thought” verbs, not to show that a character is thinking. So no, “wonders,” “muses,” “considers,” etc. And to keep up with it for six months. Though I still find it a bit daft, I like the difficulty it presents. It forces you to think of other ways to go about showing what you want to say about what’s in the character’s head, or to forgo it.

We want our words, our content, to be as strong as possible. The more we challenge ourselves to be more fluid and diverse in what we have to say or how we say it, the sharper we find ourselves.

I wanted to show some of the sites that I mentioned. Though there are many more of them, here are a few examples:

From freelancewriting.com

This one from litreactor.com 

And this from tameri.com

Weak words, those that are vague and provide little to nothing about what you mean or are referring to, should, by all means, be cast out at any and every opportunity. When faced with “things,” “something,” and “stuff,” try to be precise. Being specific is the difference between strong language and a flaky one. It is also, as one of those sites suggested, a way to show confidence in your writing.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Dare: Elemental

In both the worlds of the zodiac and magic, everyone has an element that identifies them. Fire is feisty and bold, daring, Water is calm and tranquil, thoughtful, Earth is grounded and level-headed, wise, Air is unpredictable, playful, but soothing.

Go through your roster of characters. Is each one an obvious element, or are some more apparent while others are subtle? Is there a hero that feels like one element but embodies another?

Don’t stop there, consider the elements a little deeper. If you don’t believe in the zodiac, refer to Avatar: The Last Airbender. Other than simply their personality being directed by the sign/element, what is their preference for magic? Do they like being out near the bonfires, turning on the fire place, or would they rather spend the evening out on the balcony watching the rain? Maybe a sprawling forest is more up their alley, or is it when a storm with heavy winds is taking over that they feel most alive?

Or is it darker magic that they would seek out, in the blood and flesh of necromancy? Are they manipulators of nature, or of humanity?

On the other hand, is there more than one element involved, or are they singular? Are they a warrior type void of signs, or do they dabble all over in each element? Let the forces of nature (or flesh) take you on a journey.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Dare: Living Vicariously

Chances are good that if you’re reading this, you’ve had something you’ve wanted to do, but never got the chance. Maybe you wanted to grow up playing the violin or piano, or learning ballet or French at a young age. Or if you wanted to go to a certain university, live somewhere, travel for a while.

Take that, whatever you never got to experience, and put it into a character. Purposely live vicariously through another.

To some it may not be such a great thing, you’re deliberately putting in pieces of you into your character when you should be making them their own entity, giving them dimension and depth and dynamic on their own. Typically, these things are side ornaments, in a way. They are apart from what makes the character who they are, but they still have an impact.

Whatever extent you want to take it, go for it. Consider it, but you may not even have to.

-The Novice Wordsmith


Dare: Endangered

Chances are that you have a slew of characters. They’re mostly good, some of them are chaotic, others are just downright hellish. Or maybe they’re all one way or the other. Whoever you have in your stable of mains and secondaries, this dare is for you.

Consider yesterday’s post about voice, then think about who of your characters would be most likely to get themselves into a huge mess, one that may threaten their life because of tangling with the wrong people. Is it a gang? An occult that they tried to get in good with for information? Maybe they made friends with someone or got romantically involved because they thought the person was innocent at first?

Then, think about how they would get out of it. Do they know how to make people disappear? Are their skills based on financial persuasion? Depending on the universe they’re in, are they magically inclined, or do they have the tools to take someone out easily or with some effort?

Finally, does the threat end there, or does it follow them in some way? Psychologically, subconsciously, or physically? Does the person or people threatening them before come back to haunt them? If so, how does it truly end, and who comes out on top? Is the night or day of danger something that stays with them, keeping them from sleep, or was it something they could simply shake off?

I suppose this also ties in with the suspense post I made the other day, and putting your characters in danger, but making sure not to put them in situations you don’t like, or that they can’t bounce back from. Making it look like they can’t, but giving them an ace up their sleeve. Which also ties in to yesterday’s post about voice; thinking about what choices they have or what they would be capable of.

In the end, it all ties together. However intentionally or not.

Dare: Oops!

It’s not hard to write your characters into a complacent scene, for some. For others, there’s hardly a moment where their character is sitting still and something is going right.

Sit down and look at what you’re doing. What is the chapter or story you’ve been writing mostly comprised of? Is it a lot of point a to point b without much in between? Is there deep, long thoughts about what’s going on and not a lot of action, or is it the other way around, where you have too much action and not enough dialogue or thoughts?

Add more of what you see missing. Have the character drop their drink, trip over themselves, say the wrong word, or, on the flip side, give them something to reflect on, find a calm time for them to get lost in their thoughts.

Break through, be a little more, or a little less, daring.

-The Novice Wordsmith