I often admit how nerdy I am. I used to read dictionaries for fun, and pored over the long list of definitions. Sometimes the words I found inspired an idea, and I simply had to find a way to work “limn” into a scene*.
In a rush to get into writing mode, however, I have to remind myself that some words bring to light the baggage all of us carry.
To illustrate: I’ve got lots of friends over for a party, and I happen to say “I gotta fix this table” loud enough for everyone to hear. My accountant friend’s brain jumps immediately to Excel and he starts thinking of different formulae and conditional formatting. My geologist friend concocts his argument over what part of the ecological niche we need to look at first. My woodworking enthusiast bud runs to his truck and grabs his toolbox and promptly returns to solve the problem of the wobbly furniture. Three people, same word evoking three different ideas.
The right word can make or break the tone of the scene, such as creating humor in what should be horror. No writer can predict very reader’s reaction, and it’s not worth the writing paralysis to analyze every word, but it’s worth an extra moment DURING REVISION to consider just the right word. And consult a dictionary.
*For your convenience, “limn” isn’t an appendage attached to the human body or a tree. That’s “limb”. The word I found is an outline in sharp detail. I used it in The Falconer and the Wolf, in case you were wondering, and I’m sure to use it again.