Grand Theft Cow

"The defendant is found guilty on one count of grand theft cow."

Those words have actually been spoken in a courtroom, and now they will stay in your head FOREVER.

You're welcome.

I've decided not to review a book this week, but instead I'm going to highlight something I read at work recently. I spend most of my work day researching, which means lots and lots of reading. Sometimes I'm reading about interesting topics like the intricate and complex details of one company acquiring another company, and other times I'm reading things that makes me want to smack myself in the face with a hammer, like the accounting procedures for leases. UGH.

In all of the non-fiction reading that I do, there are times that I come across words or phrases that stick with me. In the midst of very non-creative writing, original sounding phrases JUMP out like a Dauntless jumping out of a train.

And as writers, that's what we want, right? We want something that we wrote to grab the reader, to stick with them forever, to make them picture something in their mind and never forget the scene and the emotions they felt.

I think that it's really cool that even in non-fictional reading, I can still find words that do this.

"Grand Theft Cow."

I was researching cattle law (I know, be jealous) and I came across a string of articles about the recent increase in cow rustling in certain states. It's actually a huge problem. Think about it...cows are expensive, and when they're roaming out on the 500 acre farm and the farmer is fast asleep all filled up with raw milk and fresh corn, thieves can drive their truck and trailer to the opposite side of the field, round up the cows, and off they go! It's called "Grand Theft Cow."

I've never played the video game called, "Grand Theft Auto," but I sure as hell would play "Grand Theft Cow!" What images come to your mind? For me, the images are something like "Grand Theft Auto" in Wisconsin's deepest farmland. The images in my mind will stay with me forever. I was so excited about finding these words that I emailed my findings to all my coworkers, who all found it as funny as I did.

That's what we want, right? Words that stick. Words that make us stop and reread, not because we didn't understand, but because the combination of words is original, and the images they create in our minds are images we've never, ever imagined.

Be honest, if you were browsing the shelves at Barnes and Noble and you saw, "Grand Theft Cow, by Aaron Bergh," you'd pick it up and see what it was all about. You know you would.

So as you write, don't settle for words that readers can skim over because they're the same ole boring words that every writer uses ("Her heart was racing."), but instead, come up with something original, even if it's kinda ridiculous ("Her heart started breakdancing.").

Happy writing!


I'm not a writer, just a reader, however I loved this post. Really Entertaining.

I clicked on this from my feed because Grand Theft Cow, how could you not? Margie Lawson is a writing coach who does workshops across the country and she makes a huge deal about finding new ways to say common things. She calls it NYT writing, like you are trying to write like a bestseller. It's hard to not use cliches and common phrasing but worth it when you read someone who does that well and it sticks with you.

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