The Importance of the Right Word

mot juste

noun \mō-ˈzhuest\
pluralmots justes\same\

Definition of MOT JUSTE

: the exactly right word or phrasing

Origin of MOT JUSTE

First Known Use: 1912

Being a writer, I'm rather obsessive when it comes to finding and using the precise word or what the French refer to as "mot juste." This makes life hard and drives me and everyone around me crazy (I'm sure other writers reading this are nodding along in sympathy). So there I was, happily typing away on my current Work In Progress (WIP) and the Hero faces the Villain for the first time. Pretty cool situation, right?

And then I typed: "There's nothing more creepy...." and I stalled. Now I would use the word, but would my hulking, tattoo-covered djinn H? I heard author & writing guru Candace Havens in my head sharing how she was reading somebody's pages and the hero kept saying "Lovely!" Um, doesn't work.

So I checked the thesaurus and got a bunch of words, from eerie to sinister...but which would a manly man use?

Of course, there's never a man around when you need one. So I sent out an SOS over twitter and facebook. Thank goodness for friends & tweeps!

Several wives volunteered that their husbands did indeed use "creepy." Okay, but I think these married men might have different vocabulary than a manly-man djinn who hasn't benefitted from being around the influence of a woman (that's the whole reason we have a heroine -- he has to meet her, fall for her, win her heart as she wins his, save her ass while she saves his...and then...he can use words like "creepy" and recognize colors like "fuschia.") <--Just saying.

Now here are some words from guys: fucked up, weird, strange, bizarre and disturbing. Whacked out. Dodgy, shifty, slimy.

Then the teen contingency chimed in: messed up, weird, disturbing.

In the end, I chose weird...but depending on who your character is and what backstory you've given him, anyone of these could work. So, do you have a word or two to add to the list?

UPDATE: So I was leaning toward "weird," but couldn't let go of "whacked out." Had a twitter conversation about it and my twitter bud M. Price came up with "Whacked." LOVE it! Yeah, my Hero is definitely a W-word kind of guy...isn't it amazing how writing gets done?


  1. I really should have thought of this MUCH sooner. When I have trouble with words like that, I often turn to the Urban Dictionary (it's online).

    For weird here are their suggestions:

    weird odd crazy funny awkward wierd gay creepy unusual random different stupid weirdo sex cool freak bizarre abnormal queer silly more..

    For creepy:

    weird stalker creeper creep scary sketchy strange awkward facebook pedophile annoying ugly gross pervert gay loser sex odd weirdo stalking more...

    Just food for future a word crisis.

    1. I don't know what I would do without you! :)

  2. Thanks for the term "mot Juste"! I love the french for their sexy phraseology and I can thank my H.S. French class for being able to "hear" it in my mind in that French accent.
    Great idea to reach out to the twitter and FB world for suggestions--and you got great results, I'd say!

    Also, Lj--a big nod to the new suggested resource--the Urban Dictionary online! I think I'm going to go play there now on their verbal jungle gym!

    Stephanie Queen

    1. Thanks for visiting Stephanie...and wow, verbal jungle gym! I so have to check this out, now :D

  3. So true! When the "mot juste" is there, I can hear the character's voice loud and clear. Good suggestions, ladies. I have to remember about the Urban Dictionary too :)

    1. Thanks for visiting Sophia! Yes, words do make a difference ;)

  4. First of all your site is "awesome" <---- need a new WORD for that because I use it too often, lol. I'm so happy you found your word and happy you shared your update with me. Cannot wait to enter your world of stories :)

    P.S. Thank you for your extra about the pronunciation of Djinn and it's meaning. I learned something new today when before I was scratching my head uncertain of what that meant. Very cool! :)

    Happy writing and reading :)

  5. Thanks Melissa! So glad you visited and explored my site :) And so glad I met you on twitter b/c love our conversations!

    I hope you enjoy my stories :)

  6. Hi, Mina! It's great to meet you - stopping by via WanaTribe. Ha...your battle with words is all too familiar. Especially when writing from the male perspective. Another thing I find challenging is when writing of a creature who is most likely ancient - or at least long-living - is deciding whether he will use modern language. It depends on the character. In my latest PR, I have a few who tend more toward the modern, and a few who maintain that 'ancient-vibe'. Nice.

    I'll check out your books; and share my prologue on WanaTribe in the near future. Have a great day!

  7. Ooh, good point ~ ancient or modern language is an issue under the circumstances and you're depends on who the character is. I'll have to definitely check out your books too!

    So glad we met on WANATribe!