“I can tell you’re a cowgirl by your boots.”
“Oh?” I looked down at my forgotten-brand-name work boots. They were slathered with a fresh coat of wet mud. The bottom half of my Gore-Tex gaiters were also filthy, with splatters of mud running all the way up to my knees where the gaiters ended. I wear those to protect the legs of my jeans from becoming irreparably stained by the mud and general ranch-life abuse.
She continued, “I’m such a town-girl. I lease Griffin so I can ride him twice a week, but I don’t get involved with the chores out here. I would have tried very hard to find a way around the mud to put that horse out in the round corral. You just walked right through it. ”
I looked at Kathy’s boots and smiled. Her riding boots were frighteningly clean for someone who was standing in the middle of a barnyard in the pouring rain.
“I grew up in a barn,” was my reply. “I guess you get used to it after a while. I do change into my sneakers before I get in my pickup. Don’t like taking the mud home.”
Her assessment wasn’t unkind. It was based on what she knows of me. For the past year, Kathy has seen me two times a week. I am always handling a horse or mucking out stalls or feeding or doing some other chore. I dress the part; I do the work. In her mind, this makes me the real deal – a cowgirl.
I tell this story to point out that the way we speak, and for us writers, what we put down on paper – or the screen – for the whole world to see, whether we write short stories, blogs, poems, novels, whatever our specialty, our words make the impressions by which people decide if we’re the ‘real deal’ or not. Taking the time to learn a few grammar and spelling rules (or learning to use a spell-checker) can turn a ho-hum script into a page-turner. I’m not saying you have to use two-dollar words at every turn, especially when a fifty-center will do, but if you want to write something extraordinary, then don’t sound ordinary. Most online dictionaries offer a listing of synonyms, as well. Look through that list, see if there isn’t a word that paints a better picture of the scene, emotion, or event you are attempting to portray. Writers are readers. Purposely skip the story-line in a few books and focus on the descriptions. Pick out the ones that made clear images in your mind and try to follow that path in your own writing. It’s a step to becoming a top-selling author – the “real deal”! 🙂