Sometimes, changing a single word can make a world of difference. It can drastically shift the connotation of your character’s statement, and elicit different responses in a reader’s mind. Changing one word can alter the implications of how your character feels and acts. Take these following two statements into consideration.
“I didn’t find the time.”
“I didn’t have the time.”
Both might convey largely the same turn of events: something was meant to be done that was not. And in truth, both statements could mean the same thing, without any differing connotations, depending on the character’s speech patterns. However, the difference between “find” and “have” may also be indicative of the character’s feelings toward the topic at hand.
For example, a character who states they did not “find” the time may indicate they tried to fit whatever it was into their day, but were ultimately unable to. They may have started the task, maybe even multiple times, but were continuously interrupted. More pressing matters kept getting in the way, and the task was never done.
However, a character who states they did not “have” the time for something may indicate they never attempted it. Someone may have asked them previously to perform said task, and the character disregarded it, never intent on taking the time out of their day. And now that it’s been brought up again, the character is vocalizing the perceived irrelevance to the task-giver by implying they do not have room in their life for such trivial matters.
The connotations of these two statements could be reversed; altered from what is defined here; or dismissed altogether, depending on the character’s development and personality. Changing one word for one character may elicit a different meaning than it does for another. There are infinitely more twists and turns the meanings of words can take.
Give it a try. Write a sentence, and change one word to another that fits. As you’ll see, the message conveyed can change substantially. This effect may be confounded by different characters with unique personalities. Use this phenomenon to your advantage when crafting those intriguing plotlines and foreshadowing dialogue segments. Soon, you’ll master the art of making small changes and big differences.