As I sat there, letting different story ideas percolate, a man strolled in and sat on the next stool over. He put a book on the bar. Always curious what people are reading, I had to be nosey. Turned out he was reading a book in a series I know quite well.
The gentleman was reading Fatal Revenant by Stephen R. Donaldson.
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is one of my favorite fantasy series. Not only did I read it during the formative years of my life, but it has largely informed my writing in whatnot to do. Sure, some writers love using their vocabulary to its fullest extent. I’m not one of them. I have heard this from other authors repeatedly and taken it as gospel: The common reader does not enjoy being taken out of the story in order to look up a word they don’t know. Since that is largely true, it disrupts the reader and therefore disrupts the intent of the writer.
Talking to the man sitting at the bar reading Fatal Revenant, he brought up the vocabulary that Stephen R. Donaldson uses. Anyone who has read the author’s work knows exactly what I am talking about. The man is nefarious when it comes to obscure word usage. It litters his work. The genre knows this and readers either love it or hate it.
One of those fans took it upon herself to pull out those words that defy common writing practices and created the Stephen R. Donaldson Ate My Dictionary website, where almost 700 words have been pulled out of three trilogies and defined.
I think it’s genius. Here is just the letter “K,” one of the smaller dictionary entries:
– K –
kinesthesia – noun – 1. the sense that detects bodily position, weight, or movement of the muscles, tendons, and joints 2. the ability to feel movements of the limbs and body 3. the sensation of moving in space
knaggy – adjective – knotty; rough; figuratively, rough in temper
knurled – adjective – 1. full of knots; gnarled 2. milled, as the head of a screw, or the edge of a coin; covered with a series of small ridges or grooves that aid in gripping
kohl – noun – cosmetic preparation, such as powdered antimony sulfide, used especially in the Middle East to darken the rims of the eyelids
kraken – noun – [Norwegian] a legendary monster of northern seas
kukri – noun – a long, curved knife used as a weapon by the Gurkhas of Nepal
For me personally, I knew three of those words. The others… I know them now. Ha!
And test yourself!