Sunday, September 29, 2013

Word Choice

Image by Stuart Miles

Choose Your Words Carefully

As I teach Word Choice to my students, I couldn't help but think of a blog post for writers regarding Word Choice.


Word Choice is that important. 

It is obvious to me that we were created in the image of God...a God who chose to communicate to His people through words. As a result, we love words and use them to tell stories, explain ourselves, and so on.

God chose each word in Scripture carefully and the more you study His word, the more this fact become evident. The names of His characters mean something:

Adam= man
Eve= woman
Cain= spear
Abel= breath/vapor
Noah= rest
Abram= father of a multitude
David= well beloved
Peter= rock
Jesus= savior

As you can see, God chose words...names...that mean something to the reader.

What's in a Word?

My lesson began with the meaning of words: The denotative meaning and the connotative meaning of words.
It's the difference between the literal meaning and the figurative meaning of a word.

Why is that important?

I had my students look up the denotative meaning of words, the actual dictionary meaning. Then, I had them come up with the connotative meanings for each word on their own. After that, I asked them to select a word and use that word as a name for a sports team.

Some selected Wasps and Meteors while others selected Poodles, Unicorns, and Sloths.

As you can see, you have connotative meanings for each of these words. I reminded them of this fact. How can a football team named "The Poodles" be thought of as tough athletic winners?

Answer: it can't.

My students learned a valuable lesson in word choice. Words matter to people.

Think of the word "gray". What is it's literal meaning? A dull color made from mixing white and black.

What is the connotative meaning of the word "gray"? Sadness, loneliness, stormy, cold, cloudy, depressed.

All of these words come to mind when thinking of "gray".  So, instead of writing, "She woke up to a cloudy morning." Why not write, "She woke up to a gray morning" and let your readers use their own connotative meaning to the word "gray." Let your readers read and imagine your story.

Do this same exercise with the words:

  • home
  • wall
  • sunny
  • Friday
  • Monday

The word "home" might bring happy thoughts for many...but there are some out there who might connect the word "home" with pain, sorrow, fear, loss, or worry.

In Kate Chopin's "Story of an Hour", she writes about a young woman who hears the news of her husband's death and enters her bedroom to mourn. She spots a roomy chair near the window and "sank" into it. I asked my students why they think Chopin used the word "sank" and not "sat".

The connotative meaning of the word "sank" works better for this story because the author wants us to use our own connotative meaning, not the literal meaning, of that word when we read her story. What images come to mind when you read the word "sank"?

Choose Wisely

As you write your story, think of the words and names you have selected. Why is this important? Because words mean something to your readers.  We were made to love and use words.

You can see now how important it is to remember the connotative meanings of the words you select for your story. Let your readers use their imagination. Show them, don't merely tell them your story.

This is a lesson I am learning right along with my students!

Your turn: How do you go about selecting words and names for your story? Do you keep in mind the connotative meaning of the words?


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Author's Purpose

And whatever you do, do it heartily, 
as to the Lord and not to men,
knowing that from the Lord you will
 receive the reward of the inheritance...
Colossians 3:23-24

This week in my Writing class, I discussed what is meant by Author's Purpose in writing.

We read the short story, "Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin. But before we discussed Author's Purpose, I explained a little bit about the author...

Kate Chopin lived during a time in U.S. history where women did not have the right to vote, could not attend college, and could not divorce. Kate was one of the first American authors to write about women's true feelings and accurate depictions of women in her stories.

So, after reading her work, we discussed what her purpose was:

To entertain, but also to inform her readers about the women's movement in America. 

God's Purpose 

Of course, those of us who have studied the Bible know that God has a purpose for writing:

He wants readers to know His story of redemption.

For me, since I read so little fiction, if I notice a theme or message in the story I am reading, it makes me all that much more interested. Which leads me to...

My Purpose

What is my purpose?

When I began my Dragon Forest series, I had a purpose in mind...a couple of them, in fact.

I wanted to write a good story for boys. I wanted them to read about action and adventure, but also about defending a promise, and standing fast in the midst of troubles. I wanted them to take away the message of faithfulness after reading my book.

When I wrote the second book in the trilogy, I was influenced by the story of Joseph in Genesis. I knew my protagonist, Peter, would have to go through a trial of his own and come away from it changed, just like Joseph did.

I want my readers to take away a message of endurance and what it means to endure through a trial. I know Peter struggles with his destiny and wants to go his own most adolescents do...but I also wanted him to face the consequences of his actions. 

So, now that we have discussed Author's Purpose in writing...what is the purpose of your writing?

Have you thought about it?

For me, I want my stories to please the Lord. I don't just want to please my entertain them is fine, but I also want to inform them about an important cause. 

To me, that's what writing is all about. 

What about you?

What about YOUR story?

Why do you write? Does your work have a message or theme to it that you want your readers to take away from your story?

A message of:


Do you have an Author's Purpose in your writing? Why or why not?


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Letting Go...

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
 Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:3-4

This morning in church, as we studied the first chapter of James, we discussed about how various trials change through the years. 

What we considered "trials" as teenagers aren't so bad once you become middle aged. 

And as we talked, I couldn't help but think back to when I encountered a trial and learned to let go...

Back in 2001, we were in a financial mess of our own creation. I knew that we would probably need to sell our house to pay off debt, but the very thought of it made me sick. I loved our house! 

So, one morning during my prayer time, I brought all my cares and concerns to the Lord. I knew that He knew my heart and my desires. 

  • I had always longed to return to college and complete my degree in Art. 
  • I had always longed to have more children.
  • I had always longed to see my art career grow.
  • I had always longed to see my book published. 

But I realized that with all our debt college was out of the question. With my physical problems, more children was not an option. Without a degree, how could my art career take off? And with working part time while raising our son, I had no time to complete my book.

I knew I was holding on too tightly to these dreams. It was then and there I realized I had to let it all go.

That morning, I bowed my head and laid it all on His altar. 

I had my hands tightly grasped around each one. I could feel the Lord pointing to my fist, saying, "What you have in your hand...that is what I want from you."

I pointed to all the other things around me and asked God to take those instead...but deep down inside, I felt He wanted what I had in my hand.

I prayed and told the Lord that even if I never return to college...even if we never have anymore children...even if I never get to see my son grow to be a man...even if I never see my art career take off...even if I never see my book published...

That's okay.

"I have You, Lord," I cried. "I have all Your promises. I have eternal life. And that's enough for me."

With tears falling down my cheeks, I prayed knowing the God to whom I prayed. 

I know He gives and He takes away. And I know I would have to bless Him no matter what. 

I let go.

...and found the peace I was lacking. 

In 2002, I was able to return to college and in 2005 I graduated with a degree in Art. I also was able to return to school and complete my Master's degree in 2007.

No school loans. No debt was acquired.

 The Lord provided it all for us.

Although the Lord said, "No" to more children, I learned that He gave us the gift of our son and that is enough for us. 

My art career never "took off", but I know my artwork hangs in many homes across the United States and that's enough satisfaction for me. 

And, finally, in 2011 I held the copy of my book, "The Dragon Forest" in my hands. 

I let go and placed all my deepest desires on the altar of the Lord. I trusted Him with my whole heart. 

I turned my eyes from the things of this earth and looked upon His face. 

I found peace. 

So...are you ready to let it all go?

Can you look at what you hold in your tightly clenched fist and release it to the Lord?

Can you honestly say to the Lord:

"If _______________________ never happens, Lord, that's okay. I have You and that's enough for me."

Fill in the blank with what you desire most:

publishing success

What you hold in your hand is what the Lord wants most from you. 

Be willing to let it go. 

You won't regret it. 

Your turn:  what is it that you desire most? How hard would it be if it never happens for you?


Let. It. Go.