Monday, January 25, 2021

Dwelling - in Life and in Words

by Ane Mulligan @AneMulligan

Do you choose a word for each year? This year, my word chose me, and it's an odd one. One I had to think about for a while. But it fits. My word this year is "dwell."

As I digested the word, (to remain for a time. 2a: to live as a resident; b: exist, i.e.,lie where the heart of the matter dwells), I realized how very well it fits in both my writing life as well as my spiritual life. It would have fit all of 2020, too. My greatest hope for 2021 is we begin to be able to dwell in restaurants and theatres again.

In my writing, I make word choices as well. Lately, I've been concentrating on that. Camping on a sentence. Dwelling in a paragraph to make the prose sing. Will my reader be caught up in the moment? Will she "see" where my character is dwelling?

The five senses evoke powerful memories in readers. Some smells are the never-forgotten kind—either beautiful or disgusting. In my upcoming June release, On Sugar Hill, I wrote, "Like the Low Country has pluff mud, Buford has the tannery." Anyone who has been in the Low Country knows that ever-present aroma of pluff mud. 

The sound of a slow, stealth footfall evokes fear, building the tension into stark terror. Touch is so vital to babies, they can wither and stop growing without it. Touch connects us as humans. In 2020, one of the hardest things we endured was the lack of touch with our friends. And taste—oh what fun we can have using that sense. One of my critique partners says she gains 5 pounds critiquing every story of mine.

But this post isn't about using the 5 senses (but you need to). It's about word choice—making each word count. The choices we have are as vast as the dictionary. And the words you choose refine your voice as a writer. 

For instance, I could write: My heart pounds.

Or … A vein throbs in my temple.

Whatever you're writing, I've found it takes time to find just the right word. You have to dwell in a sentence. Change the arrangement of the words to find what works best. Sometimes, that's difficult. If you have a word like station, referring to a railroad station. There aren't a lot of other words, and you'd be repeating (as I had one) a lot. Dwelling there allows you to see other ways to arrange the sentences. 

In On Sugar Hill:

Unlike New York’s Penn Station, the Buford train station is small with a wooden platform. A few cars rattle past the station over cobblestones paving Main Street.

Became: Unlike New York’s Penn Station, the Buford one is small with a wooden platform. A few cars rattle past me over the cobblestones paving Main Street.

Dwelling. A good word for me for 2021 … both in my writing and my spiritual life. What about you? Do you dwell in your sentences for that just-right-word?


Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw Mary Martin in PETER PAN, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. Years later, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her website, Amazon Author page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and The Write Conversation.


  1. Ane, thanks for making me think! Sometimes, in a rush, I forget to wait for the right word. Then, it comes to me in the middle of the night...

  2. Ane: I appreciate how you applied your 2021 One Word to both your writing life and your spiritual life. Your concept of dwelling in your sentences so you write more vividly for your readers challenges me to do the same. Thank you!

  3. What a terrific word for the year! Thank you for sharing and for this insight.

  4. Thank you for the encouragement to dwell in my writing, to put thought into wording to make my writing more vivid. I’m looking forward to doing this.