Top Ten Vocabulary Words To Give Your Novel Or Short Story The Illusion Of Literary Prestige

by Wendy BooydeGraaff

1. Undulating: it can be hills, sadness, or the ripples on the ocean, but be sure your character (or landscape!) is somewhere seeing something or experiencing something that is undulating.

2. Anemic: never use this to describe low iron in the blood, but rather, anemic is better suited to the glow of headlights after midnight, or the weak stare of a stranger (or possibly your brother-in-law?).

3. Wizened: use this to trick non-literary readers into thinking the character is wise when he or she is really just old and wrinkly. Extra points for describing the character’s white hair and shriveled bone structure for literary redundancy.

4. Sanguine: because there’s no way to figure that word into grocery store small talk (what are you going to say? “I’m sanguine about how this pasta will taste with a little of this jarred pesto?”), so throw it into your fiction! Your characters will understand!

5. Crepuscular: because writers ignore the day, wake up at dusk, and go to bed at sunrise, crepuscular is the type of lighting writers know best. Also, it scans in at a solid four syllables.

6. Liminal: good fiction is always on the edge of boundaries. If you’ve used crepuscular once already in your piece, consider using liminal next to describe that in-between lighting, or the non-genre conforming boundary between real and surreal.

7. Scrim: the scrim of congealed milk on the top of my hot chocolate, the scrim of gritty gravel on the side of the road, or the scrim of words I threw out when composing this list—all of the scrims are woven together into one overly large meta-scrim that out-scrims even the grime on my keyboard.

8. Whilst: seriously, let’s bring “whilst” back into vogue (along with shan’t and mustn’t!) as these words are not used nearly enough in North American literature. Every time I see one of these anachronistic words in modern prose, I break out my English accent, but it shouldn’t be so! If everyone tossed a shan’t or a whilst into their lit fic, we could start a language trend. Inform the language in our favour!

9. Tupperware: somehow, putting leftovers away or toting a salad to a potluck requires this 70s era plasticware that I haven’t seen used anywhere but in its perpetual appearance in my mom’s annual garage sale. No one uses this anymore, except literary fiction characters, but they do so with great aplomb!

10. Appeared: note, this word is usually found in the author bio section, as in Wendy BooydeGraaff’s work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Rune Bear, and Leopardskins & Limes, among others“Appeared” gives literary work a mystical, surprising, and even page-turning quality. Because, wow, if I turn this page, I wonder what will appear on the next one, and the next one. Maybe some more writing by me?

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