Sherri Lupton Hollister

Word Detectives

I’ve been working on a program for the Pamlico Writers Group website, The Word Detectives. The idea is to choose one word and find different ways of saying it. Our first word was Sad. This is a simple word but if I choose one of it’s synonyms I can convey so much more. Check out The Word Detectives on

Here is my first article.

The Word Detectives

Do you ever search for the right word? Does it sometimes elude you? It does me. I struggle with vocabulary, wanting just the right word to convey a font of information. Each month I’d like to challenge you to add to my vocabulary list as I search for just the right word. Perhaps, you too will discover new words or be reminded of familiar ones.

For the month of April I wish to explore emotions. Today’s word is sad.

The boy was sad when his kite flew away.

Kyle was distraught when the wind whipped his kite away.

Susan was inconsolable when her kite was ripped from her hands.

Jimmy was depressed over the loss of his new kite.


Depending upon what we are trying to convey the word choice makes a huge difference in how the reader interprets the event.

Losing the kite is a common childhood event but what if the loss of the kite is more. Perhaps the loss of the kite coincides with a father leaving or dying. The wind represents our lack of control and the kite the precious gift we’ve lost.

Perhaps the kite represents the loss of innocence or the loss of childhood.

Or it could simply be the fleeting joy of childhood things.

As you hunt for the right word, think about what you want that word to tell us.

In The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi define sadness in two categories: grief and unhappiness.

There are physical signals of grief/sadness.

Tears burned his eyes as he watched his kite drift out of sight.

She fell to the sand sobbing over the loss of her kite afraid of her uncle’s reprisal.


There are internal sensations that can be described.

His chest ached as he watched the red kite get smaller and smaller barely noting the silver car disappearing around the curve. He knew he’d never see either of them again.


Mental responses that can be shown with internal dialog or with action.

He turned away, holding back his tears, unwilling to watch the vibrant display of colorful kites when he no longer possessed his own.


It can also be shown as suppressed action or emotion.

He gripped the string as it fell to the sand no longer attached to the lovely kite his father gave him as a parting gift. He stared, unwilling to give into the grief of losing them both.


In Roget’s Superthesaurus, sad is defined as: 1. Downhearted: blue, depressed, dejected, unhappy, sorrowful, mournful, *bummed out, despondent, *down in the dumps, woebegone, melancholy, heartsick, forlorn, *out of sorts, dispirited, brokenhearted, glum. 2. Heartbreaking: woeful, pitiful, tearful, poignant, moving, touching, depressing, tragic, joyless, miserable.

What other ways can you describe or convey sadness?

If you are describing a character, which form of sadness works best? Are they merely bummed out or are they despondent? Having the blues is very different than being heartsick or forlorn.







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