The Lexicon Practice

by RS on October 22, 2010

Yesterday I received The Writer’s Portable Mentor and I started with one of the exercises in the first chapter. It consisted of writing continuously without stopping. There were ten questions or prompts that helped you formulate the foundation of a story. The fun part was creating a scene of confrontation, and I was actually surprised what came out of my character’s mouth!

Overall it was a great exercise that I found very illuminating. The next chapter is all about word choice or lexicon. I’ve just scanned the chapter, but I know the exercises will be incredibly important. One of my stumbling blocks is that I personally feel that I lack a rich vocabulary. That doesn’t mean that I want to use fancy words to convey a thought and that has everyone running to the dictionary, but it does mean that I want to be more poetic with language, and play with the sounds and rhythm of words. What Priscilla Long recommends in this chapter is a Lexicon Practice–where you gather up in a notebook words and phrases that catch your fancy.

This is what Priscilla writes about the Lexicon Practice:

There are two parts to the practice.One is to make your own Lexicon (word book) and the other is to collect words and phrases in a list that pertains to the piece you are  currently working on. I call this second part the word trap, because trapping words is like trapping fish in a net.The words are out there. Time to bring them in.

That’s such a simple exercise, and I know it will be very worthwhile, especially for HAND/EYE articles.  Long suggests getting a nice bound notebook (I love pretty notebooks. I’m such a sucker for beautiful writing accessories) and give each word that you want to own a half page with a definition. In other words two words per page. The key is to put in words that really catch your attention, that are juicy, that resonate with you. For example: when I lived in Prague, I ‘d always would walk by the old town square and when it started to get warmer there was little old man with five little dogs that performed tricks–I’m talking real acrobatic stunts. Before the show would start, the little old man would announce in German, Achtung! Achtung! Hundeausstellung then he would switch into Czech and say Pozor! Pozor Výstava. For some reason the word Pozor, which means Attention or beware struck me as one of those words I had to possess, plus I thought it was the perfect name for a dog. So I made that word mine and it ultimately became the name for my first Jack Russell terrier ((suited him beautifully).

I’m looking forward to this ongoing exercise. It will be fun and it will improve my writing. And who knows, I just might find another name for another dog.


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