1. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Arc Words

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Protar, Jun 2, 2011.

    For those who don't know arc words are like words, phrases or numbers with deeper meanings that keep cropping up in a series, hinting at something or other. Like bad wolf in doctor who or a song of ice and fire, in a song of ice and fire. Does anyone use these? Are they useful do you think? I was just musing about whether I should use them in my novels and wanted to know what others thought of them.
     
  2. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or like 19 (or 99) in The Dark Tower series, which would have made me understand it better. =D

    I'm currently reading a novel I found on the Web Fiction Guide (called Corvus) where "Janus" are being referred to. As in Jar-noos, the plural of Janu? I'm really hoping it eventually gets explained. I mean, I know who the Janus are, but I don't know what the name is supposed to mean or anything.

    I kind of used it in one of my stories I think, but it was pretty self-explanatory on the spot, but I did use it frequently in the plot. I had a character, several times, refer to himself accidently as "monster" (he was crazy) when calling himself "monsieur". The pseudo-supernatural voice in his head frequently called him monsieur, but then started calling him "monster-man" and stuff. I don't think it's really the same thing, though.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm using one such phrase in my current project - the Dead City. The novel is set 250 years in the future, and I make periodic references to it early in the work. By 10,000 words in, the reader knows where it is, and by 15,000, why it's called the Dead City (it's a real place). Eventually, it will be a central point of action in the story.

    Like all literary devices, it shouldn't be overused or dragged out for too long to be most effective.
     
  4. Baron
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    Baron Contributing Member

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    Arguably the very first "modern" fantasy novel, "The Well at the World's End" by William Morris, used several. The most noticeable being "dead tree" which then became identified with "Riders of the Dead Tree" and to meaning of both being revealed close to the end of the book. It seems to be a common device in many works associated with mysticism and the occult. It can certainly create an intriguing hook.
     
  5. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    I love arc words but I despise when an author repeats it over and over again to when the big revelations happens its nothing or something completely pointless, or something that I was able to guess from the first moments those words were first revealed.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    That was one of the negatives I took away from Ayn Rand's work, "Atlas Shrugged". The book opens with someone saying, "Who is John Galt?" It soon develops that this is a common phrase used to signify, "Who knows?". It later develops that John Galt is the name of a character in the book. Like a lot of other things in Rand's writing, I thought it was ponderously overdone.
     
  7. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    I think arc words, when used well, are a really cool thing in a story, but they can get way overused if you're not careful. Some authors, IMO, pull it off better than others.
     
  8. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm confused; are arc words anything like Mcguffin (Hitchcock's phrase)? Mcguffin is something which drives the story, but may not be essential to the plot. "Rosebud" in Citizen Kane is a perfect example of this.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    As is the Maltese Falcon.
     
  10. Greendog
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    I love arc numbers in books or stories. When I finally realize the meaning of them it feels like making some huge discovery - uncovering something amazing.
     

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