May 21, 2019

Repurposing - Do You Use This Technique?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine

Repurposing is the use of a tool being re-channeled into being another tool, usually for a purpose unintended by the original tool-maker. For writing this means taking a word and repurposing it to be an unusual word with the purpose of surprising your reader.

Writer’s Relief gives this example in a post they wrote in September, 2011 ( See article They used an example from the book The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (where she repurposed the word cobweb)  The young man says “Budapest was cobwebbed with memories…”

What I like about her using this repurposed word is how it denotes so much more going on in the man’s mind and in his feelings than just using memories. It conveys something deeper in him. Don’t you think?
Another word that is repurposed is the state of Missouri. Instead of saying your character is not easily convinced and or he’s a skeptic, one would say, “He has a Missouri mindset.” Not only do you use less words, but you create a character that gives your reader a vivid comprehension of what he is like.
How about the word Goldilocks? Would you think of repurposing it? Goldilocks remember, tried each bed looking for just the right one. Conditions had to be just right for her. “Nancy has a Goldilocks mentality.” The funny thing about this one is we all probably have known people or had friends who were just like this, in that everything had to be just right before they would do anything or go anywhere.
We easily use the word ‘knit together’ and ‘in a pinch’; we’ve used them so much they have lost their surprise element in our writing. Question – can you think of another way to repurpose these two words, knit and pinch? If so, please share with us.
It goes without saying; you don’t want to overuse this technique of repurposing words. Sprinkling a few in your story is okay. And if you repurpose a word to describe a character, then do that for the one you most want the readers to remember.

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