Weigh your Words: why the right words matter

Read the following passage (pp. 288-90) and pay careful attention to the writing.  You should select the appropriate expression from those offered in parentheses.  Try to maintain the integrity of Grenville’s writing.

For a moment Thornhill tried to imagine it: turning his back on that clearing carved out of the wilderness by months of [sweat/hard work].   Letting some other man have it in exchange for nothing more than a few numbers on a piece of paper, some other man who would walk over it, smiling to himself at all its [fertility/possibilities/many different ways that it could be used].

He knew [the/his/their/our] place now, by day and by [candlelight/night], knew how it behaved in rain and wind, under [the sun/sun] and under moon.  He thought his way along all those green reaches of the river, those [gold/yellow/daffodil yellow] and grey cliffs, the [wishy-washy/whistle/fantastic and varied sounds] of the river-oaks, [that sky/ the way the sky seemed to look like/ the bush in general].

He remembered how it had been that first night, the [fearsome/massive/scary] strangeness of the place.  Those cold stars had become [new/old] friends: the Cross, nearly as good as the Pole to steer a course by, the pointers, and the Frying-pan, which was nothing more than Orion, only upside down.  He could tell over the bends of the [river/Hawkesbury] the way he had once been able to tell over the bends of the Thames…

….He was no longer the person who thought that a little house in [a little street/a town/Swan Lane/the south of France] and a wherry of his own was all a man might desire.  It seemed that he had become another man altogether.  Eating the the food of this country, drinking its water, breathing its air had [made/remade/given birth to him], particle by particle.  This sky, those cliffs, that river were no longer the means by which he might return to some other place.  This was where he was: not just in body, but in [mind/soul/conscience] as well.

A man’s heart was a deep [pocket/place] he might turn out and be amazed at what he found there.

The sun had risen now, high enough to brush the crests on the cliff, puff-balls of brilliant green glowing against the shadows.  The white [parrots/sulphur crested cockatoos] all rose at once out of the tree they roosted in and spread like a scatter of [river stones/stars/sand] into the sky, the sun catching the brightness of their wings.

Beyond the cluster of people waiting for him to speak, the cliffs hung over the river, [mysterious/ big/ vibrant/magnificent], colourless in the early morning shadows.  At this hour the cliffs were [a kind of patterned cloth/a soft cloth/a coarse cloth], the weft of the layers of rock, the warp of the trees straggling upwards.  Beyond the [neat/regimental/ragged] line of tree-tops, the sky was a sweet [blue/red/green/gold].  A sudden gust of wind on the river ruffled it into points [like giant waves/of light/like a school of sharks’ jaws] and the forest [slept/heaved/shuddered/sighed] under the morning breeze.

Check your versions with the original text and try to think about why Grenville’s choices work in this passage.

The writing process is a process of weighing up language and expressions.  Avoid cliches.  Find new ways of showing us ordinary things.




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