Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Snirtle – My Favorite Word to Date…

December 4, 2013

Snirtle – definition: to snicker mockingly

I absolutely love this word and will have to find lots of occasions to use it. I think everyone needs this word in their personal lexicon. It is both a noun and a verb. It is a soft, suppressed laugh, a soft snortle (itself a reduced snort) or shortened snigger. Therefore, a snort is greater than a snortle, which is greater than a snirtle.

Snirtle was used by Robbie Burns in 1785  The Jolly Beggars : A Cantata

Wi’ ghastly e’e poor tweedle-dee
Upon his hunkers bended,
An’ pray’d for grace wi’ ruefu’ face,
An’ so the quarrel ended.
But tho’ his little heart did grieve
When round the tinkler prest her,
He feign’d to snirtle in his sleeve,
When thus the caird address’d her

Do you have favorite words? What are they?

While investigating the word, I came across these cute pictures at Deviant Art by Tazworth (Shauna) – aren’t they awesome?

Which is your favorite?




Practicing Reticent Pays Dividends…

March 15, 2013

Reticent – definition: 1) not intending to talk or give out information 2) quiet in tone or appearance 3) showing doubt or unwillingness


I am sure we can all relate to reticent feelings when we first walked into a writing group or when we finally had enough courage to share our words for the first time. Whether you are a ‘new’ writer or a seasoned one, our words are precious commodities we treasure. It can be easy to hold them close for fear of rejection, after all no-one could possibly love them as much as we do!

However, it is in the act of sharing that we find a new love. Within the safe harbor of a supportive and encouraging environment, whether family, friends or critique group we see how our words affect others. This brings another aspect to our writing – the power it has on others. If the reaction is one we wished to extract from our readers then we have accomplished our goal. If not, we can use the feedback to revise and edit, enhancing our words to better effect. Our story and how we write it is unique, no matter if it is a love story, a battle of good and evil or a ‘who dun it’ – the themes are universal but it is finding another way to tell them that is the art.

It is also a good practice to be rather reticent when utilizing social media. A constant ‘sales pitch’ with no real interaction with followers and friends has a noticeable detrimental effect on how you are perceived – and its not good! Subtly is the key – a few carefully chosen words, a hint here and there, a reference to a similar character, location or theme and open invitations to find out more, are more effective ways of encouraging a readership than blasting every media avenue open to you with post after post of ‘buy my book!’


Double Meaning Can Confuse…

March 12, 2013

Dilettante – definition: 1) an admirer or lover of the arts 2) a person who has a shallow interest in an art or area of knowledge.


Now I know that ‘English’ is a complicated language and it’s use around the world has altered it drastically but how can the same word mean completely opposing views?   I could describe someone as a dilettante meaning the first version and get sort shrift from them thinking I am being spiteful. Thus I began searching out more antagonyms.

Here are just a few to get your grey matter thinking.


Buckle – fasten securely or fall apart

Impregnable – able to be impregnated or incapable of being entered.

Weather -to endure or to erode.

Buckle- to hold together or collapse.

Fast – move rapidly or fix in position or starve.

Bound – to travel to or unable to move.

This creates a predicament for the writer. How to use the word and ensure the correct meaning is realized by the reader. We don’t want to expound too much as that negates using the word in the first place but some hint as to the specified meaning is required. As writers we play with words and this is an example of how we can excel at our art. Using the location or company of our character can be a good way of ensuring the correct meaning is known or how the dilettante actually responds to the circumstances.

Descriptive words are a writer’s best friend…

January 26, 2013

Let me start with the thesaurus explanation of descriptive : evocative, expressive, vivid, graphic, eloquent, colorful, explanatory, illustrative. Quiet a list, which I’m sure we could expand on if we so chose. However, my point is a single word can encapsulate a mood, a feeling or a condition. Today’s desk diary offering is such a word – Clammy – definition : being damp, sticky and unusually cool.

Check out the Thesaurus' sibling, Dictionary.

Check out the Thesaurus’ sibling, Dictionary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The word clammy conjures up an exact feeling, one we have all had at one time or another whether due to illness or a particular uncomfortable situation. Such as our first public appearance, nervously opening a response to a manuscript submission or the tell-tale light headedness prior to fainting.

This delightful word is an example of how you can capture your character’s feelings precisely. In the revision process of any piece of work, tightening up the exposition ensures the story keeps pace and large sections can be refined into their essential elements. In using words, such as clammy, our readers are instantly aware of our character’s situation without losing the impact of the narrative. In other words -using these descriptive words keep our narrative sharp.

Careful word usage is a learned skill for many and delving into our dictionary and thesaurus on a regular basis enables us to use words to their best affect. For example if we did not use clammy, we would need to describe cold but sweaty skin, light headedness, damp beads of perspiration – a lot more words for the same condition and an overly descriptive sentence or paragraph can lose our reader’s attention. We certainly don’t want that.

Use of the thesaurus on our word document screen can assist but does have it’s limits. A good dictionary & thesaurus are a good investment for any writer. There are specific thesaurus as well. For example I have an emotional thesaurus which is a great tool.


Take your time while revising any written piece to identify descriptive words that would sharpen it. They are a writer’s best friend, so use them often.

Character Development…

January 9, 2013

Words have a power all their own

Words have a power all their own (Photo credit: Lynne Hand)

Yesterday’s word had me puzzling on how to incorporate it into a blog article. Could I be clever enough? Then life got complicated and I had to leave my train of thought and deal with the situation. So you have two for one today! I’ll let you be the judge on the outcome.

Sobriquet (sho-bri-kay) – Definition: a descriptive name or epitet – a nickname.

In character development we give a lot of thought to our character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.

A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name.  There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world.  These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.

The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.

English: Common Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellari...

English: Common Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) in their Magnificent Sea Anemone (Heteractis magnifica) home on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our second word for today is: Symbiosis  – Definition – the living together in close association of two different organisms especially when mutually beneficial.

My immediate thought was two-fold, family and writing life. Most of us have to balance these two sides of our lives, it can be tricky at times but life on the whole is better if we can. From my own experience I know that ‘Mum’s writing’ was thought a bit barmy at first. My family members would notice me frantically typing but had no trouble interrupting me. It took some time for them to understand that the act of writing was extremely important to me and when I was given the space to write, I was happier. Three years down the line, I have worked out a flexible routine and everyone knows my writing is not a passing fad but an essential part of me. So much so that they notice how much happier I am once words have been put to page. The benefits are obvious a happy Mum means a happy home. Getting to this point was not easy but I am glad I persevered.

How do you balance your writing life? Can you share your experiences?

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