Making Your Words Count (or “What I learned while Hanging with Friends”)

So when I’m not working on edits for Love Sucks, I’m playing my new obsession.  My sister and dad introduced me to the “with friends” games while I was visiting for Christmas.  Well, after getting my shiny, new iPhone, I downloaded the apps, and now I play with them all the time.

The two I play are Hanging with Friends and Words with Friends.  Words with Friends is essentially Scrabble.  Hanging with Friends is a hangman/Scrabble hybrid.  Hanging is my favorite (so far I haven’t lost).  With Hanging, you have a certain set of letters that you can create a word from 4 to 8 letters long.  Each letter has a number of points it’s worth, and one space you have to fill might be worth double or triple.  You get points for the word, but those aren’t what wins the game.  Instead those points are used to collect “coins” so you can get special avatars and such.  What wins the game is whether the other person can figure out your word before they run out of letter guesses, just like in hangman.  You also get fewer guesses for longer words (supposedly because there are more letter options in the word) and more for short words.

Sometimes for Hanging, I focus on getting more points and sometimes I focus on stumping the other person.  I am much better at beating the other person in Hanging because, in the end, a better vocabulary is your friend.  This is not necessarily true for Words with Friends.  An impressive vocabulary can help you figure out how to use a difficult set of letters, but for Words, what matters is the points you got for each letter.  It doesn’t matter how great a word is if it’s a ton of common letters and doesn’t land on a special square (double/triple letter/word score squares).  Then someone will hit me with “za” on a triple word score and get 33 points.  Grrrrr.  (But now you know that trick, as do I 😉 )

So what do we, as writers, learn from Hanging with Friends and Words with Friends?  It’s how to make your words count.  It doesn’t matter if you use a ten-dollar word, if you don’t use it right.  Even in Hanging with Friends, I know that there are some letters the people I’m playing with always guess first.  Also, the guesser gets the last vowel automatically, so if you have several of that same vowel, they get every one without a single guess.  If you have several of any letter, it leads to fewer guesses that they have to make.  So I have to try hard to avoid these things, even if the letters I have available give me the opportunity to make a great word out of those letters.  In Words, a long word might be gold, but it might have been worth more if you had put it in the right spot, or if you had used the same letters for two smaller words in different places.

Writers are taught that we have to make sure that our words matter.  We have to make them count for all they’re worth.

Maybe my Hanging with Friends and Words with Friends obsession is nothing more than me being thrilled to show off my writer’s vocabulary.  Totally possible.  But maybe, just maybe, it’s helping me learn to make those words count.

Lots of love,

One thought on “Making Your Words Count (or “What I learned while Hanging with Friends”)

  1. I don’t know about “Hanging” but with “Words” vocabulary wasn’t my challenge. It was extracting words in that jumble of tiles. Unscrambling anagrams is what really helped me. Then I got more and more hooked on creating anagrams, as my blog will attest. BTW, [Finds Weird Throws] is an anagram for Words With Friends.

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