The Right Words, In The Right Place
“It's been one of those days. Nothing's going right at work, you’ve spilled coffee down your favorite shirt and your boss is being impossible with a last-minute request. Naturally he comes to you with this as you're walking out the door at 5 o'clock. Grudgingly you comply and, now 45 minutes late leaving the office, it’s out the building to fight the evening traffic. Today’s commute home seems worse than ever, as you battle the stop-and-go traffic, the worst only a mile from your home.
“But you know relief is only a matter of moments away - if you can only get past this last fender-bender. You sigh with relief as you pull into your driveway, dodging the trashcans that never got put away. You ignore them and walk to the front door, throwing it open, happy to be home. The load of paperwork in your arms gets dumped on the couch. You can deal with this later. Heading towards your sanctuary, you ignore the blinking light on the answering machine, the note from your family telling you they went out to eat, and the cat waiting for her dinner. There is only one thing on your mind and it’s right behind that door.
“You strip off your clothes as you walk and then you enter the inner sanctuary of gleaming marble and clear glass. With a smile, your reflection in the mirror resembles a kid ready to open a gift. In haste, you open the shower door and turn the water on as hot as you can, ready to indulge. A few moments later you're standing under the shower, with the hot water washing away your cares and woes of the day. You could feel the tension releasing, your shoulders start to un-hunch, and you close your eyes.
“At first, it's a shock. I don't believe what’s happened, but then it happens a second time and the third. You see a pattern is developing here. The blissful feeling you had accomplished under the hot water is gone. All it took was three or four drops of icy cold water falling from the showerhead above you. Not mixing with the hot water, just falling one on your shoulder, one on your forehead, and one on the top of your head. Like a little needle those droplets prick, breaking into your reprieve, shocking your system.”
Like those drops of icy cold water that took you out of your reprieve, so did the word, “what”.
The reader has been jarred from their reading.
The Power of Words
This can be a good thing. Jarring the reader can change the mood immediately, pick up the pace, or take the reader out of their comfort zone. But if it's not done intentionally, then it's harmful to your writing. One word out of context, used inappropriately or so badly misspelled will take the reader away from the enjoyment they were having with your story. You spent a lot of time and effort to get them to this state of bliss, why ruin the mood with the wrong word?
The Importance of Hearing your Words
Needless to say, it is important as a writer to read your words before you hit the publish button. I don't mean simply read what's on the paper in front of you; I mean you need to listen to your words. Have somebody read to you whether it's your computer or a trusted friend. Make note when something sounds off or is jarring. Because of it does to you, the writer (who knows what's coming next), think of how your reader feels.
Using Slang and Local DIalects
I think from experience it's best to keep local slang and regional dialect out of your writing unless used in conversation between characters. It is asking a lot of your reader to follow a different dialect or to assume they know the slang words you're using. I would especially be careful of slang words. It seems as soon as you've written them down, they’re out of date.
The Impact of Words and Mood
Unless you have a reason to dramatically change the mood of your scene, then don't. Let the scene play out the way you intended with no dramatic swings. Carry the mood all the way through the scene until the story demands to change. You want your reader to stay in the story as much as possible. So, use your words wisely, with nothing jarring or out of place that will take your reader away from your story.
Now, back to that relaxing shower ...