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    A Little Word Play

    Words are a writer's blood. A good writer knows a lot of words. But most of all, he knows how to use words wisely. With some word play, he can come up with ideas, he can create catchy titles and give a unique flavor to his writings. By juggling words, he can weave a tapestry of sentences and paragraphs.

    Here are some ways to work with words:

    Snapping - You can use this technique when you don't know what to write about. On a piece of paper, write the following words:

    Object
    Emotion
    Relative
    Sport
    Body Part
    Number
    Food Item
    Adjective
    Verb
    Appliance
    Pet
    Clothing
    Disease
    Place
    Brand

    With a snap of your finger, write the first object, emotion, relative, sport...and so on...that come to mind. From the second list you have, pick one word that you would like to develop into a topic you'd like to write about. For example: for the word "relative," I first thought of "cousin." From "cousin," I remember my cousin Trina and how we used to play every summer when they came over and stayed with us for two whole months. I can now write a story on that or an essay about cousins or a feature article on how to spend summer vacations wisely. Got the point?

    Linking - This is another technique that you can use when you don't know what to write about. Think of an object. Write it down. Think of another word that is somehow related to the first word. Next, think of a word that is somehow related to the second word. Next, think of a word that is related to the third word. Now go over the word chain you have made. Choose one word that you want to develop into a topic. For example: table-table cloth-stain-stain remover. You might want to write about emergency stain removers that can be found in your kitchen (such as lemon or vinegar).

    Clustering - This technique helps you organize your articles. Think of a concept. For example: "abortion." Now think of words or topics that are related the word. For example: Legality of abortion, termination of pregnancy, induced abortion, spotting, miscarriage, fetus, church, rape, forceps, infection, unwanted pregnancy. After you've written quite a number of words or phrases, cluster the words that belong to one topic. For example: induced abortion, spotting, miscarriage and forceps belong to "types of abortion." Rape, church and legality of abortion belong to "the law on abortion." Fetus and termination of pregnancy belong to "what is abortion?" Infection belongs to "effects of abortion."

    Cubing - This technique helps you to think more profoundly. A cube has six sides. Write from six perspectives. Start with concrete objects. For example: a "computer." Now write from the monitor's point of view, then the keyboard's point of view, then the CPU’s point of view and so on. After trying the technique with objects, try it with concepts. How about writing about "death" from different perspectives: from the dead person's point of view, from the bereaved relatives' perspective, the coroner's point of view, the deceased debtor's point of view and so on.

    Framing - This technique can be used to start and end an article, a story or an essay. Start with a sentence or a paragraph then end the piece with the same sentence or paragraph or a reference to it. For example: In the essay "A Writer's Calling," the following lines were used to start the piece:

    I heard my calling. It came to me one night as I stared aimlessly at nowhere. It suddenly popped into my mind -- and then it became clear, as clear as I have never seen it before: I was really born to write!

    The article was concluded with:

    And so I heard my calling. It came to me one night, as I stared aimlessly at nowhere. It just popped into my mind -- and then it became so clear, as clear as I have never realized it before: I was really born to write!

    Puning - This technique can be used when you're thinking of titles. To pun is to play with words. For example: The title of this column "Bits & Pages" is a pun of the common phrase "bits and pieces." The title "Of Ads and Ends," a piece about deceptive advertisements, is a pun of the phrase "odds and ends."

    Imaging - This technique can be used when you want to add texture to your writing. Write a word. For example: "serene." Now think of images that are serene. Immerse yourself into the images in your mind. Then write what you see, feel, hear.

    Dissecting - This technique can be used when you’re thinking of subtopics and/or a sidebar for your article. You can also use it when you want to come up with as many articles as you can from one main topic.

    Think of topics. Cut each topic into subtopics. Cut each subtopic into smaller subtopics. For example: An article on abortion can have the following subtopics: The legality of abortion, the types of abortion, the effects of abortion, the reasons for abortion. The subtopic "types of abortion" can be dissected into "spontaneous" (involuntary abortion) and "induced" (voluntary abortion). The subtopic "induced abortion" can be dissected into "drugs and instruments." The subtopic "drugs" can be dissected into the different "abortion drugs" (such as the morning after pill and the menstruation-boosting drugs) while the subtopic "instruments" can be dissected into the different methods of abortion that use instruments (such as vacuum aspiration and dilatation and curettage).

    Substituting - This technique is used to enhance diction. Go over what you have written and check if there are more appropriate (or more intense) words that can replace what you wrote. For example: the word "devour" is more picturesque than the word "consume" if you're writing about a boy who finished a whole fried chicken in just five minutes!

    No matter how busy you may be, it pays to remember that all work and no play makes a dull writer. After all, it will surely do you good to devote some time for a little word play!

    Copyright © 2003 Lizzie R. Santos

    Lizzie Santos writes features, literary pieces, scripts and other writing projects both in English and Pilipino. She also lectures at creative writing workshops. Her first book, The Laughter of the Leaves and Other Musings, was published by Giraffe Books. She is working on her second book. Contact her at liz_pages@yahoo.com.

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