Tools I use

Dictionaries, encyclopedias, books/magazines, wordlists, visual aids, and life.

Dictionary:  Not just for reference, but inspiration too

I can kill awful amounts of time in the dictionary, digital or real.  They’re invaluable to me.  Some months ago I lost my access to the online Oxford English Dictionary, not good.  But I make due with a handful of others.

My suggestion for new writers is to use the dictionary just as much as you would an encyclopedia.  Dictionaries (decent ones) are in their own way encyclopedic.  The roots of words tell stories, these stories or etymologies are creative and sometimes inspiring.  It is also good to know all the uses of a word, this can open creative pathways.

Encyclopedia:  Use it as a starting point for getting other books

Do you remember your first term paper, let’s say in about fifth grade?  The first rule of a book report/term paper is that you shouldn’t plagiarize other works in particular the encyclopedia which is your starting point.  It’s no surprise that when you get to college the same rule applies.  But students still do it and out of Wikipedia for that matter.  The same rule as fifth grade, same starting point.

Wikipedia gets a bad name because of the insane amounts of plagiarism, even citations from it are a no-no.  This doesn’t mean that it is a bad reference source.  I use it more than anything when I’m on the internet.  It allows for you to do guided research in a library for the handful of books you need.

Books:  Reading away from the computer, a relief

I have only a few so far and a handful more to get.

  • Atlas of Languages
  • Grammar Bible
  • Book on Child Language Development
  • Yachting magazines
  • Collection of Emerson’s work
  • Prose Edda

Need to get

  • Alcoholics Anonymous book and other material
  • Mahabharata and other Vedic texts
  •  Collection of different undecipherable ancient languages

Wordlists:  Lexical Depth

For Dipso, I’ll be making several wordlists.

The first one I did was Alcoholism.  Here is a sample of the list:













Some of these I had never heard of which is awesome for me and the English language.  I can use these words and keep them alive, and they’ll enrich the language of my character’s narrative.  In my opinion, using an extensive amount of vocabulary has you walking a sword edge.  You can make a story stronger, but you can also make it unreadable with too many collegiate or archaic or jargon words that just make you seem smart.  I tend to define words that are uncommon if I absolutely have to use them.  And of course strong context helps which is how I will utilize the above words. You can also get away with using loads of uncommon words if you’re justified, Nabakov pulled it off well in Lolita.

I do have to take caution with my wordlist of linguistics.  I must make sure that all justified use of jargon words is easily understood by all readers.

Visual Aids:  They’re fun to make and brighten your writing day when you’re stuck

For Dipso:

  • I’m going to draw a map of the Baldur’s sailing route around the world.
  • Coincide language maps with the journey
  • Pin up several different types of alphabets, syllabaries, pictographs, ideograms, hieroglyphs, et cetera
  • Language family trees
  • International Phonetic Alphabet chart
  • Pictures of different ancient boats/ships
  • Examples of traditional tattooing, especially Pacific Island and Nepal
  • Different types of booze bottles
  • Photos of different places


Life:  Recall all experiences related to anything relevant

Of course writers use their experiences to give depth to their writing.  I personally try to avoid using situations verbatim, I’d like to save that stuff for an autobiography.  I let the story and the character take a basic situation and make it unique to them.  For example, everyone has had an embarrassing trip and fall, fairly universal, I just stylize it to the story with the conveyance of my own emotional regard.

Tomorrow, I want to discuss voice.  This is huge for literary fiction.  I’ve given the consideration of voice a great amount of my thoughts.


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