Hunting season is in full swing here in northern Wisconsin. Grouse, pheasant, duck, goose, bear, deer…you name it and someone hunts it. As a writer I’m always hunting, hunting for the right word, the right emotion, the right style. My pen is my weapon and it doesn’t always hit the mark.
Sometimes it’s a matter of using the correct word, affect vs effect or who vs whom, but most of the time it’s about using the perfect word, that one word that says it all exactly right. The correct word means opening one or more of my always handy English usage guides; finding that elusive perfect word can be a lot trickier. That’s where my hunting skills come into play.
When my heroine cries does she sniffle, does she sob, or does she outright wail? Maybe she isn’t a crier at all; maybe she gets angry. Knowing my characters makes tracking the perfect word much easier. Then there are those words that are both correct and perfect and they can only be found with good old-fashioned research; and sometimes a lot of floor pacing.
In my historical romance, “Mary Bishop”, my heroine owns a gun and I had to determine what would be the perfect gun for her and for the time period. I couldn’t just keep referring to it as the gun, that tells my readers very little, and if I use the wrong gun for the time, or the wrong ammunition for the gun, my readers will be quick to call out my error. Problem is, I know very little about guns. On a positive note, I have a history degree, own a library full of historic reference books, and personally know many gun owners.
It’s 1881 and I chose a Colt 1860 Army Revolver that her now late husband took off a Confederate officer in the beginning months of the war. This choice led to much debate within my critique group. Not a debate over the gun choice, but over the way I reference it in the story. Some felt the term revolver sounds too modern and I should call it a pistol. This is where my research came in handy. I was able to explain that not only is the term revolver not a modern one, but why I believe it is the better choice. It’s more specific. Now my only decision is where I call it her revolver, her Colt, or her gun. If I don’t mix it up just right within a scene I risk sounding repetitive…thus the occasional pacing.