Words Words Words

I don’t know about all writers, but some writers — including me — periodically fall in love with WORDS. When I “discover” a charming or inspiring word, I’ve been known to post it on the corkboard above my desk or tape it to the mirror in the bathroom.


Sometimes the words grow into entire stories. A conversation about Krampus with a German friend introduced me to the truly nightmarish creature “Nachtgrap” (night grab) which led directly to a modern fairy tale in which the old woman in a cottage in the woods assures a small girl that monsters do indeed live under beds and come out to grab you in the night.


More often, the words simply linger — along with articles from newspapers and bookmarked website addresses — in a limbo of idea stew until the right opportunity pops or until the word simmers long enough to naturally appear in a sentence.


I knew my dad also collected words. He’d often call or email me words he’d found in a book. They were usually old-fashioned words from histories or biographies, but sometimes they were simply magnificent words used by a fiction author to evoke a response that was vivid and singular. After he died, I found lists of words on his desk, a notebook of homonyms and a folder of stray words that he found intriguing or simply fun.


The weird thing is that in my dad’s writing he used a deceptively simple vocabulary. His memoir, published when he was 76 and still available via Amazon and in a few bookstores, uses peculiarly simple words and sentence constructions to create accessibility without sounding simplistic or “dumbed-down.” This style came naturally to him. As a freshman at NYU in 1944, he was placed in a “remedial” English class because his tested vocabulary was below the school’s standard. The first essay he wrote for that class was published in a University journal when the professor recognized his “limited vocabulary” as a writing style.


Words, words, words… sometimes the small ones are better than the tricky ones in the final round of the spelling bee. I’ve always focused on the RIGHT word — small, large, borrowed from another language or made-up — but that’s my style and since I write with a great deal more dialog than dad, I have to be aware of the words that make sense to a particular character.


Words, words, words…. I love ‘em.



My Father’s Bakery, by Marvin Korman





  1. There was a time when I liked writing the purplest of proses, but for sometime now I have been more inclined to follow the path of Hemingway. At least a bit more than I let on.

    There is a beauty in the simple words that they don’t have to fight to show.

    • Candy Korman

      I let the story and the characters guide my word choices.
      Sometimes PURPLE and sometimes stark black and white.

  2. I spent way too much time in writing workshops under the influence of realists like Carver and Ford. Most days, I can’t imagine not writing down stripped prose, but there are times I keep trying to spread my writing wings and see what I can come up with.

    • Candy Korman

      Literary fictions seems to roll through phases of spare stripped down prose and extravagant magical prose. I roll back and forth, but I know I’m weird that way. Come an join me on the dark side where we plays games with words! (Not all the time, but when it’s fun.) I’m reading Sleep Donation by Karen Russell right now. Definitely not spare and Hemingway-esque.

      One day, I’ll have to pick your brain about the workshops you’ve attended. It’s been a long time since I attended a writing class of any kind. Umm…. something to think about.

  3. I love words as well, but find lyrical prose terribly hard to master. By lyrical I don’t mean purple! I mean those beautiful phrases that ‘get the job done’ while still flowing like music. There have been times when I’ve read and re-read one sentence [in someone else’s writing] simply because it was so perfect. Sadly, lyrical prose is something I have to work at with a pickaxe. 🙁

    • Candy Korman

      I know what you mean. I’m a very slow reader, so slow that I hear the words as I read them and sometimes a sentence will strike me as so beautiful it should be set to music. But more often, I become infatuated with a single word that is spot on target or just sounds so good as I read it that I fall in love.

      On the other hand there’s something to be said for language that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself. I read something recently where the luxurious sentences started to weigh the story down. The language started to get in the way of the story. It was almost too lyrical. Another lesson in the importance of balance.