By Annette Rey
Recently I happened to look up the word laconic to see how the dictionary defined it. I have been familiar with this word all of my life as I was an avid reader as a child but was curious as to what the dictionary had to say about this word. Interestingly, that entry showed nuanced differences between it and other closely related words.
It is important to you as writers, and all of us as speakers of English, to use these words correctly to communicate effectively and, by proper usage, perpetuate these words to be good examples to our reading audiences.
First, from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/laconic — laconic – adjective – using or marked by the use of few words; terse or concise. You may have a gumshoe character, a man of action but unwilling to waste words, who speaks in monosyllables when dealing with bad guys. “Yeah.” “So you say.” “Where’s the stash?” “Five to ten in the pen.”
Whereas reticent implies a shyness in your character’s choice to use few words in her communication. You may write physical gestures that confirm this characteristic – she lowers her eyes when being given a compliment, almost as if to negate the sentiment being offered to her.
If a person is taciturn he is not skilled in the social graces. He may appear awkward when confronted with having to engage with another person. I think of a character such as a librarian, comfortable among all of the tomes that surround him. The volumes are quiet companions and require nothing from him. Or your character may be an old codger who has become embittered with life and has no patience for communicating deeply with anyone. His answers may include a lot of grunts and gestures to show he wishes to hurry away to where he feels more comfortable.
And finally, tightlipped. This implies a person who has a lot of information but is determined to not release a word of it. I think of a recently captured wrong-doer. He knows he would do prison time if the cops knew everything he did, so he sits cross-armed in the interrogation room and says nothing. He’s going to make the cops work to uncover any evidence that would send him away. Your character may be a trusted butler or attorney, in long-time service to a family. He knows where the skeletons are buried, but he is firmly dedicated that no outsider is going to uncover the bones from anything he could say.
Now you see how familiarizing yourself with a variety of words that depict the same thing will enrich your writing. This enables the reader to move along quickly through your prose as he gathers the essence of a character.
You can endow your characters with human qualities and your tools to build them are wonderful words like these.
Have some fun creating a new character today!