As writers our job is to play with words, to turn a phrase, be a wordsmith. Words are the tools of our trade so it pays for writers to keep their tools sharp and in tune. Recently, as I was reading “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder, on page ten I ran into the word daguerreotype. Since I was reading in bed and didn’t have a dictionary near by, I was annoyed. But it didn’t seem to be a critical word so I ignored it and moved on. Then on page 27 the word encomiums showed up. Now I was starting to feel stupid AND annoyed. I still didn’t have a dictionary near by so I again decided to ignore it when I thought, this is an opportunity to learn a new word. I happen to have a highlight marker available so I highlighted both words and the next day looked them both up. So now I have two new words to play with and put into my toolbox!
Having a healthy collection of words in your toolbox is invaluable for a writer but everyone runs into those times when a single word just isn’t enough. You need a bigger tool, you need a pithy utterance. So I have also started collecting interesting descriptive phrases. For instance, in the same book Kidder describes Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital as a ‘medical mall’ referring to it’s impressive entrance and all the various sections within the massive complex. He also used the phrase ‘mortal dramas everywhere’ to describe all the tragic and heroic events that take place there. I LOVE those phrases! They’re so descriptive and unique AND they’re going into my toolbox.
So what’s in your toolbox? Well for starters, here’s two new words for you:
da·guerre·o·type noun də-ˈge-rē-ō-ˌtīp, -ˈger-ē-
1. an early photograph produced on a silver or a silver-covered copper plate; also: the process of producing such photographs.