Word work

I’ve had this short story I’ve been fooling with off and on for several years. It’s set in a hospital, though that is only tangential to the plot, and I have one scene where the hospital security guard comes into a sort of waiting room for coffee and donuts. My intent is portray the guard as a benign, grandfatherly sort of cop on the beat.

To do that I wrote the sentence fragment below (part of a lot of other words I wrote, in case you’re wondering), and I’ve been turning the words around a few times to decide which carries my meaning better.

  • “and the man bore his menace solely in the can of pepper spray on his belt.”
  • “and the man bore is sole menace in the can of pepper spray on his belt.”

Each sentence carries a subtle difference in meaning. The former placement of “solely” modifies the verb “bore”; the latter placement modifies the noun “menace.” The former seems to imply that the man might have more menace, but that it is displayed in only one way. The latter suggests the man is really without menace at all, except for the can of spray that has been issued to him.

For my purposes, I think the latter version is the better choice.

Do you obsess over words like this?

The story is still unsatisfying in undefinable ways. The overall point, or goal, or theme, or thesis of the story is supposed to be about the giving of charity and how people are motivated in very different ways to do that, not all of the ways admirable. I’m not sure I’m getting that across, even to myself, which is why the story has been in progress for years.

Explore posts in the same categories: Humble efforts, Process, short stories

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