Update. Next Publication is: Under Strange Suns, available digitally August 2015, print version due December 2015, Twilight Times Books.

Argosy

Argosy

The writing savants instruct that we not employ a ten-dollar word when a nickel’s worth will suffice.  You will lose the reader if he is forced to consult a dictionary.  You risk appearing pretentious.

This is no doubt sound advice.  And yet I struggle with it.  I like archaic terms, obscure, little-used words and expressions.  I enjoy encountering a new word, even if it means heaving open my brobdingnagian 1920’s era dictionary, or hopping onto the web for a quick search.  I loved it even as a kid.  A new word was a precious find.  I hoarded them like gems.  Reading L. Sprague de Camp was like a treasure hunt.  I’d roll “yclept” about like a shining jewel.  An archaism that I valued precisely due to its rarity.

I like the baroque stylings of a Jack Vance, or the dense, lush lyricism of E.R. Eddings just as much as the more approachable, breezy prose of Elmore Leonard.

So I find myself torn.  I do err on the side of caution, many of my jewels not surviving the culling of the first draft.  Of course infrequency causes the remainder to stand out, and a word that stands out can lead to the very problems the wise and experienced writing gurus warn about.  Thus I weed out even more – the story itself being more important than one of my beloved treasures.

But sometimes the nature of the story allows me to indulge.  And I do.

What are your thoughts?  Does it diminish your enjoyment of a story to stumble across an unfamiliar word?