Normally I shun any online game, but I must confess that I’m addicted to WORDLE—that five-letter word game with the six-letter name. I won’t go into the specifics of how to play WORDLE, but it’s easy to learn and devilishly hard to play.
It’s a game that starts with so many possibilities to whittle down until you either beat the game or the game beats you. I love flexing my vocabulary muscles as I search for the right solution to the daily WORDLE puzzle.
As a writer, WORDLE reinforces the desire to find just the right word—the key word—that beautifully transforms the mundane into the sublime. Deploying the right word is like Viagra for flaccid sentences; it raises them from the dead.
So often we’re tempted to use the first suitable word that pops into our heads and, most of the time, it gets the job done. But to what effect—producing boring, uninspired, pedestrian copy?
But if we think strategically, like we do in WORDLE, we can use our words like fireworks that explode in the reader’s mind. Take, for instance, this example from Craig Johnson’s latest Longmire novel, Daughter of the Morning Star:
“No, this was something else; I could just feel it. I remember looking up and seeing the trees swaying, the pines shimmering …”
Johnson’s strategic use of the word “shimmering” makes the entire image come alive in my mind. It creates an unsettling feeling in the reader that the pines are not entirely real. Instead, they’re just a mirage in an uncanny dark wood, and Johnson took us there by his skillful choice of a single word.
In my own writing, I look for every opportunity to deploy an impact word packed with meaning that will land like a punch to the gut. The delight in writing is making the reader experience an emotion such as joy, terror, or sadness. The right impact words help us achieve this.
While WORDLE might be a passing fad, its focus on finding the correct word is a discipline every writer should strive for.
Gee, I wonder if Craig Johnson plays WORDLE.