Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dahlia DeWinters Talks About the Importance of Word Choice

I'm pleased to welcome Dahlia DeWinters today as she celebrates her latest release. I, of course, asked a ton of questions about her edits and how she felt about them and what she learned. Here's a great post from her about the the importance of word choice.

"There was a book out a time ago, called “Roman Soldiers Don’t Wear Watches” which  was about movie mistakes that you find in period films, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, where in one scene you can see a man in t-shirt and jeans in the crowd. Kinda weird seeing that with all the other people around him in proper desert-wear, right?

Writing a fantasy fairy tale was a challenge, not in the execution of the story itself, but the world-building and within that world-building, the creation of language.  I don’t mean I created my own language, although I slipped in a few made-up words here and there, but I mean how the cadence of the dialogue and word choice transports (I hope) the reader to the fantasy land of the story.

Going back to Raiders, seeing that guy in the t-shirt sauntering along may ruin the period feel of the film.  In the same way, the wrong word choice will jerk your readers out of the story.  In writing The Wisest Maiden, I made the conscious decision to have no contractions in the book.  Short of using “thee” and “thou” this was a way of making the speech of the characters formal and polite.  I also used no slang.   The king doesn’t tell his subjects to “Relax” or “Take a chill pill”.  Not that he would be so inclined to do so anyway!
The Wisest Maiden 
Word choice was another decision I made--with the help of my editor--during the editing process.  In order to lend a more archaic tone to the story, I replaced words such as “gorgeous” or “sexy” because they wouldn’t be appropriate for the “once upon a time” feel of the fairy tale.  Instead, I used words such as “ripe” and “luscious”, words that conveyed the king’s intense feeling for his soon-to-be-bride without using modern words that may yank the reader out of the spell that I’m trying to weave.  I opted to use more formal, and at times awkward, language to keep the readers in the “long ago and far away” mood.

Note the difference between the two phrases:

“Don’t touch me.  Save it for the wedding night, King.”


“Preserve your caresses for your wedding night, King.”

Both convey the same basic meaning, but the second sounds like it belongs in a fairy tale. The word choice puts you “there”.

Certainly, writing (and editing) a fantasy story was an experience!  While it was frustrating at times to find the right word to express the thought without sounding contemporary, it helped to stretch my vocabulary and learn how to make great use of the online dictionary sites.   All in all, it was a learning experience that has made me more cognizant of the difference that language makes."

Thank you, Dahlia. I look forward to reading this story. Readers, the book she's speaking of The Wisest Maiden...

Betrayed by his first wife, King Toridesh gives his new brides no chance to deceive him. After he marries a virgin of his choosing and consummates the marriage, he has them killed.

As an only child, Issalia has been sheltered by her parents in an attempt to shield her from their king’s murderous intent. When her mother falls ill, Issalia refuses to allow their market-stall to be closed for the day, knowing this one day of income stands between them and poverty.

While in disguise, the king spies the lovely Issalia in the marketplace and takes her as his next bride. Will Issalia succumb to the fate of the virgin brides before her, or will she be able to break the king’s curse?

It can be bought on Amazon and All Romance Ebooks.


  1. Tara!!! Thanks for hosting me today!

  2. Hi Dahlia. Your new sounds fascinating and I have no doubt you made some excellent word choices, my talented friend! You know I think the cover is extra gorgeous! I wish you all the best.

  3. I agree with your comments about the word choice. I also think that subtle words make more of an impact than harsh, to the point words. I like the premise of the book. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sounds good, Dahlia!