Exercise: Choose Your Words

We all know words matter. This is especially true when we want readers to feel a particular way about a character or setting. After all, the trap-laden maze isn’t described as a happy place. It’s described in a way that ensures you figure it’s out to kill you, possibly in terrible ways. The same goes for characters. Want the villain to be someone the readers don’t like right off the bat? Your first description of them is your most powerful tool, use it wisely.

That however, isn’t always easy to do. Word choice can have a massive impact on how these descriptions come across. Finding the right words can make the difference on how a setting or character comes across.

As an exercise: Below is a series of words, one for characters and one for setting. Use three or more to describe a character, and at least five to describe a setting. (You’re also welcome to add more to the list!) Then go find the antonyms of your chosen words and swap them out without changing anything else about what you’ve written.


  • Youthful
  • Jovial
  • Assertive
  • Optimistic
  • Cooperative
  • Well-dressed
  • Compassionate
  • Clean/Cleanly
  • Wrinkled
  • Rotund


  • Lush
  • Rocky
  • Downpour
  • Steamy
  • Crowded
  • Odorous
  • Sparse
  • Noisy
  • Dry
  • Icy
  • Echoing
  • Moist
  • Stale
  • Cramped
  • Dingy

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