Choosing the Right Word

After earthquakes and aftershocks, an author searches for the right word.

Posted Dec 06, 2016

I left the San Andreas fault  in California and landed in central Italy in time for all three earthquakes in October. Lucky me! Seen in the teaser photo, the town of Trevi, next to the town where I was staying, about a 45-minute drive from the epicenter of the worst quake.

The New York Times reported that there have been over 43,000 aftershocks since August. I lost count after 300. Being a writer, naturally I thought about how to describe the quakes and the aftershocks I felt.

I would hear the almost silent rumble for a second or two. It felt like a ball of smoke rushing toward me. Then the stone house I was in shook, always sideways, left, right, left. The aftershocks were a jiggle. I could hear the glass dining room table rattle in the next room. House keys in a ceramic bowl, a cup on the table. The 7.1 earthquake had felt like I was in a metal box, shaken by a giant.

I waited for an aftershock to pass, then picked up my cup of tea. After all, I didn't want to break my front teeth on the cup. Hot, amber, astringent and sweet.

I wondered, Is rumble the best word to describe this? Rumble implies roll. Would "roll" be better? No, "rumble," low and heavy, I decided.

Writing prompt: Revise a draft you've written, substituting a word with the right nuances for one that may be too vague.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Laura Deutsch