1. lameri
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    lameri Senior Member

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    Better term?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by lameri, Nov 9, 2011.

    Hello,

    I introduce a character's "bad boyfriend" by saying:
    "She wanted to be with her rather dysfunctional date, but she knew that wouldn’t bring him any closer to her."

    From then on, I refer to him as "lousy date," but I'm not sure it sounds OK. I could replace it completely or I could replace some instances of it. But I don't want to call him "lousy boyfriend" precisely because the relationship wasn't good/stable. Here are the places where I mention him:
    1) That's all her "lousy date" could offer her.
    ...
    2) Of course not, she was still in love with her "lousy date." Fortunately, her reflections over the weekend made it clear that she really didn’t need to have a lousy date. She could do better than that.
    ...
    3) Her "lousy date" was there. She felt nothing. She was completely cured.
    ...
    4) That had been one of the problems with her "lousy date": he was too sure he was right. For him, there was no reality out there, only his reality.

    What would you suggest?

    Thank you.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i would suggest using 'lousy date' only once... and not even that, if you're not referring to the date itself, but to the person...

    a 'lousy date' usually refers to the experience, not to the guy/gal... so to keep calling him a 'date' makes no sense... what makes even less sense is that you seem to have used the term both ways... in some places as meaning the guy and in others to mean the experience...
     
  3. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Describing him as a "dysfunctional date" has a different connotation than bad date. To me it sounds like she wants to sleep with him but he wouldn't be able to "perform".

    I think I would just call him a guy or a man or something and let the reader decide what kind of date he is.
     
  4. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    I'm not sure I agree with this. I read "dysfunctional" here in the same sense as in "dysfunctional family", meaning that there's something that's just off about the interpersonal reactions. While "dysfunction" is used in "erectile dysfunction", outside of that context, I think of it in the social aspect, not the physical one. I'd expect any talk about his sexual performance to instead use something like "impotent". As a side note, combined with mamamaia's observation about the ambiguity of "date", "dysfunctional date" gets even more confusing.

    Very true. You know the old adage "show, don't tell"? This is exactly the kind of situation that it applies to. If I'm talking to a friend of mine, she might really start out by telling me that she had a terrible date last night (once again, in this context, I'd assume that "date" refers to the event, not the person, which changes the meaning subtly), but really, I expect her to just launch into telling me about it. It makes a much more effective story if I'm the one who's saying "that's terrible!", and so on, while she is recounting the story.

    As for what term to use, if you must use one, I'm not entirely sure. However, you really only want to use it once. You're wondering what to call him after you introduce him, but he has a name, doesn't he? I can't imagine going through a whole scene with any character without knowing their name.

    If you're being purposefully vague about his name, calling him her date, or simple "him"/"he" will suffice -- this isn't ambiguous if there's only the two of them in the scene, and whenever it is ambiguous (if there's a male waiter, for example), referring back to him as her date is perfectly fine.

    You should never use the same descriptive phrase over and over to refer to someone. Use it once, and your reader will remember it. The absolute closest I get to that is, for example, when talking about my 12-year-old character Jason, to call him "the boy", but this isn't really a description as such, because my readers already know he's a boy, it just happens to be a convenient way to refer to him. What I wouldn't want to do is have a scene with Jason (black hair) and Kyle (blonde hair), and go back and forth saying "the black-haired boy" and "the blond-haired boy" when the reader already knows these characters. I *might* say that once when introducing them, or at the beginning of the scene. (The one exception I can think to this is if my POV character, especially in first-person, doesn't know these boys, and doesn't know their name -- then, he or she might actually naturally think "The blond-haired boy did x. The black-haired boy replied 'y'").
     
  5. CLM1188
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    CLM1188 New Member

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    Good thinking Amy.

    It is possible to use many wonderful descriptive adjectives to describe a noun, but adjectives need not be attached to all nouns. I assume the boyfriend is a significant presence in your story; therefore, I assume there are also several opportunities for characterization peppered throughout. Little details like the color of a chair in a room, the size of a bed, etc. are perfect for adjectives to clarify your image to your audience. Like you stated, don't worry about describing the boyfriend as lousy, dysfunctional, bad or anything because you have plenty to already say about him.
     
  6. lameri
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    lameri Senior Member

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    Thanks for helping me figure this out. Well...the date/boyfriend of my character is not really important. He's not present in any scene. His only purpose is to show that now my character is happy after dumping him and happy with her new boyfriend. So all I want is a name to refer to him (briefly, when I state my character's thoughts and feelings). It would be easy if I could call him "lousy boyfriend," because that would be an acceptable term. But I don't want to upgrade him (he is a lower-class boyfriend) so I'm looking for the right noun. Lousy sounds really appropriate to me, so if I could keep that, I'd be all happy!
     
  7. SnappyUK
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    SnappyUK Member

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    How about "loser" or "loser boyfriend"?
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless she's just starting out on dating, she's unlikely to have had just one lousy date. Why doesn't she give him a derogatory (possibly sarcastic) nickname: Mr Sensitive if he's a brutish oaf, Mummy's Boy if he's over-dependent, Mr Tiny if he's ... well, I'm sure you can work out a suitable nickname.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how about the current flame's 'lousy predecessor'?

    or, simplest of all, her 'lousy ex'?
     
  10. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    how about you just refer to him as 'Him' with a capital H. the reader then will get the gist,because by denying him his name,hit titles of lousy/bad.,,you have actually disempowered and denied him recognition by only refering to him as a HIM.
    in real life when we see someone we want to avoid or don't like we tend to say oh no it's him or her..don't we.
     
  11. lameri
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    lameri Senior Member

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    Thanks for your ideas. Very useful1
     

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