Words by J.R.Wallis

I’m delighted to welcome J.R. Wallis to my blog today to celebrate the launch of the third book in The Badlands Trilogy. Do make sure you check out my book review to see day 3 of J.R. reading from The Book Of Mysteries!

We’re really lucky with the English language that we have so many different ways of naming and describing not only objects but physical and emotional sensations as well. One of the reasons for this is that various other languages like Latin and French have fed into what has become the English language over time, expanding our vocabulary. For example, if you wanted to describe a cake as “very good” there are lots of alternative words and phrases we can use instead to get across what we want to say.  And why use the word cake when you could use gateau or torte or even savarin, depending on the specific type of cake you’re thinking about? 

Another reason for the expansion of the English language is that it’s very good at evolving, adjusting to the world as it evolves, coming up with new words like Frankenfood, Crunk and Guyliner.  If you don’t know what they mean then look them up!  Young people are responsible for expanding the English language too.  They see the world differently to the way their parents do.  As young people talk amongst each other they develop new ways of speaking and of communicating.  They are vital for helping the English language to grow and change. 

So what does this all mean for storytelling?  Well, if our language is full of variety and contrast it means you have a lot of choice about the words you use.

Choosing words is really important for writing a good story too.  Why?  Well I’m going to tell you something that a lot of people forget about stories when they’re writing them – although it’s the storyteller who creates it, any story needs a reader or listener to make it come alive.  Stories are, in fact, places where the storyteller and the reader meet; the writer might be the one who puts down the words but it’s the reader who uses their imagination to give them meaning, making those words come to life.  In a way when a storyteller is writing a story, it’s a bit like writing down a magic spell the reader can then use to make something happen.  Words themselves really are like magic.  I can prove it.  If I say the word ‘Witch’ what happens?  What do you see in your imagination?

So, anyone writing a story needs to choose their words carefully.  They need to pick just the right ones to make sure the person reading their story can work with what they are reading and use their imagination.  For this to work well a storyteller must remember two important things.  First, they must not overwrite, they musn’t use more words than they need, especially when they are trying to describe something.  It’s a strange thing but using too many words stops the magic happening.  For example, if you give the reader too much detail about a chocolate cake then their imagination is overwhelmed and they’re not being asked to work and participate in the story.  So use your words sparingly.  And this leads me onto the second thing you need to do.  The words you do use need to be the right ones and by that I mean they need to have enough power to conjure up in the reader’s imagination exactly what you want them to see.  This goes for describing how characters look, what they’re doing, what’s around them and so on.  In fact with anything you describe you want to pick the most appropriate details to give to the reader to allow them to make a picture in their head of what you’re describing.  Here’s an example from the second book in the Badlands series ‘The Black Amulet’ where a Vampire is introduced….

“The Vampire looked pale and gaunt in the gloomy orange light.  A dark tangle of hair rested on the narrow shoulders of its black suit jacket.  Ruby could see the glint of long, sharp fingernails.  Despite being old, perhaps even centuries, there was an obvious strength in is lean frame, like the unseen energy trapped in a coiled spring.  It was a powerful creature.”

If you’re not sure whether you’re using the right words or if you’ve used too many then an easy way to know is to read them out loud.  You’ll hear something odd in the music of the sentences if they’re not quite right or you might not see clearly what’s being described in your imagination.

About The Author

JR Wallis is a children’s author and is always on the look out for strange and mysterious things to put in his books. He believes that if you look hard enough you can usually find something interesting to photograph or write about. 

Don’t forget to check out my review of The Book Of Mysteries (tales From the Badlands 3) by J.R. Wallis, with an exclusive reading from his new book, here.

If you’d like to win a signed copy of The Book Of Mysteries, check out my #BookOfMysteries #Giveaway tweet (you can find it on my blog home page).

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