Among the images that non-writers have about authors is their struggle to find just the right word for a given situation. Whether describing the single hair sticking out of someone’s nose, the trauma felt by a victim of abuse or the beauty of our world, authors want to find the precise turn of phrase to express his feelings and get the reader to feel what they’re trying to get across. Authors will change the wording of sentences multiple times to get it right or go days trying to come up with the exact adjective.
This occurred to me moments after I reached the famous overlook of Yosemite Valley during my summer vacation. The point from which the above photograph was taken is on California’s state Route 41. After entering Yosemite National Park through the South Gate, the roadway takes you north along a winding stretch for about 45 minutes or so before you reach a series of tunnels. The overlook is at the end of last tunnel. From there, the drive takes you into the valley and its campsites, cabins and hotel.
Upon viewing the scene before me, one word and one word only about Yosemite sprung into my author’s mind: magnificent.
Magnificent is defined as “
Thesaurus.com, which I sadly refer to frequently, list as synonyms words like “brilliant,” “elegant,” “grandiose” and “superb.” Fine words, all, but not exactly right for Yosemite.
Magnificent is the one that strikes the balance between “splendid appearance,” “beauty” and “size,” and if you’re not religious, it can make you question your values.
Getting the words right are essential to the writer’s craft, of course. Readers can tell if authors are being lazy or rushing. My journalism background generally directs me to the simplest, most direct term. I’m a writer who likes to impress with story, not use of language. I’m no poet. As a wordsmith, my work is solid, not beautiful but flimsy. That’s okay.
The trip to Yosemite concluded with a tour of the park’s high country, where descriptions can be imprecise. If you view it before going into the valley, you’re more awestruck than if you’ve already seen the show-stealing first act. It’s beautiful, up around Tuolomne Meadows or Tenaya Lake. It’s just, just, uh, not quite so much. It’s “appealing,” “lovely” and even “splendid.” But only the valley area, especially seen from that tunnel overlook, is “magnificent.”
The one word that describes our family vacation, besides fun, is “irony.”
Because we have two dogs, we didn’t want them to be left alone for a full week, obviously. So we hired a young family friend to stay at the house. Female. While this is no mansion, and doesn’t have a pool, you can’t beat a house in San Diego in June — or any time of the year, for that matter. This coming just days after the ebook edition of UNDER FALSE PRETENSES goes on sale. It wasn’t intentional, but it was ironic.
Purchase UNDER FALSE PRETENSES here.