I realize this will come as a great shock, but I use a thesaurus. Take for example my story “Hot Dogs on Everything.” Here are the story’s first two lines as they appeared A Finely Tuned Apathy Machine:
High school students and anybody who was drunk made up the majority of Julio’s clientele. He put chopped up hot dog wieners on everything – pizzas, soulvaki, subs, hamburger steak, fish and chips.
And here are those lines as they appeared in my first draft, with no help from the thesaurus:
Teenagers who were not dropouts and people who had had at least six beers or four glasses of wine or three shots of hard liquor were the people who mainly went to Julio’s restaurant. He put chopped up frankfurters on all the things he made – pizzas, souvlaki, subs, hamburger steak, fish and chips.
There are those writers who will claim they never open a thesaurus but those writers are full of excreta.
My thesaurus is the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus . I love it. We are very intimate, me and the Oxford American. We are going to see Water for Elephants together next Wednesday.
As if having Stephin Merritt as one of its contributing authors wasn’t awesome enough, the Oxford American also features helpful example sentences for each of the entries. This was something I was good at in school, with vocabulary words, so I can appreciate a well-crafted example sentence. I recall in Grade 3, faced with the task of using the word “Chinese” in a sentence, I was able to reflect the cosmopolitan nature of our suburban schoolyard with “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these!”
I think Mr. McCurry was blown away by that one because after I read it out for the class he put his head on his desk and left it there for maybe a minute.
All this to say today I came across what is my all-time favourite example sentence in the Oxford American. It’s for the word “crypt” and I shouted with delight when I read it. It’s so wonderful I took a picture of it. It’s the example sentence to end all example sentences. I’d rather read this sentence over and over than many novels. Behold: