1. Rafiki
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    Rafiki Active Member

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    Is this a thing I'm allowed to do, or is it just lazy writing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rafiki, Aug 7, 2012.

    So I'm beginning to notice that the English language is lacking in words. I have specific situations that demand a particular word, and it just doesn't exist. So I suppliment with metaphor, analogy, and all the things that good writer should. But then there are moments that I want to describe where a metaphor just doesn't fit. Situations like: "Angel chuckled in the way sad people chuckle when they realize they are being over dramatic."

    My question is this: The sentence in quotation sounds right, describes a situation precisely in the way that I want it to be described, but it feels like lazy writing. Is it?
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm confused - why do you see it as lazy writing? Now, it is a pretty heavy structure, so I wouldn't suggest that you use it too much, but I don't see it as lazy, and it's just fine occasionally.

    However, it would often be better to give more of the load to the character, and less to the narrator:

    Angel stared at Jane, then grinned and shook his head. "OK, yes, a little overdramatic, but you see what I mean?"

    Edited to add: A possible word would be "sheepish".
     
  3. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    :eek:

    English = 1,013,913 words as of Jan. 1, 2012. (according to the languagemonitor website). (ok, enough of my being a geek). So, on to your question.

    I think there at least three different ways to handle this line:

    1. Combine it with an action to get the point across. "With a sad chuckle and blushing cheeks, Angel picked at a thread on his shirt."

    2. Focus on a cross between showing/telling ". . . but angel stopped, realizing the drama he'd created, and ended it with a quiet chuckle."

    3. Dig even more for synonyms, such as: abashed, chagrined, timid, self-effacing, self-censored, etc.
     
  4. shaylyn
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    shaylyn Member

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    only 1,013,913? Doesn't seem like very many words to me.
     
  5. Jamie Senopole
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    Jamie Senopole Member

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    #3 all the way! That's what I do, to find the exact word I'm looking for. Use a thesaurus then look up the definitions of the synonyms you're unfamiliar with, to learn their exact meaning. You will expand your vocabulary this way!
     
  6. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I understand the meaning behind it - But it is a bit wordy.

    Would; embarrassed/self-concious/guilty chuckle, fit what you are trying to say?
     
  7. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I feel that you can take every liberty you feel like taking, with your descriptions if you are a good writer. The thing is, your sentence can be a delight, if situated within a very competently and tightly written narrative. A writer's quirk (although I would omit the qualifier "sad people" and just say "people", that way is more smart and ironic).
    But if you are struggling with your writing in general, then such a sentence becomes an awkward testimony of writer's incompetence.

    Since I have no idea how the rest of your writing is, it's up to you to decide, but on it's own merits, your metaphor is interesting and engaging, so it that sense theres nothing wrong with it.

    As far as your comment about English "lacking in words", I can identify with that, not because English realistically has a poor vocabulary (it most certainly has not) but being bilingual, there are certain words and phrases in my mother tongue which simply do not exist in English, and the way one has to communicate the same thing using only English, comes across as overtly descriptive and lacking in meaning. Awkward, clumsy. However, the same thing goes for my mother tongue, which lacks certain ingenious phrases and words that exist in English. No language is perfect, and personally, I'd love to be able to write in two languages at once, but that's not a very good idea, so I make do with what I have (thesaurus should never be far away, though).
     
  8. Langadune
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    Langadune Member

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    I agree that this works (taking into account some of the suggested edits) depending largely on your story-telling style. It is a bit tough to judge one sentence without the context of at least a larger sample of your writing. As a general rule, it's good to avoid wordy descriptions, but sometimes a sentence like yours can paint exactly the picture you want. I'd say use it sparingly, or at the very least, use it well.
     
  9. Lost72
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    Lost72 Member

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    No, it's not lazy because I suspect it took some thought to come up with it. However, I don't understand the sentence one bit. There will be a word, or a short action, that will describe perfectly - I'm just not sure what it is you want to describe.
     
  10. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    Here's an comparison. Spanish has around 300,000 to 500,000. Latin had about that many. Hebrew had alot more, but they changed the meaning of words with vowel points. English is basically the most descriptive language on the planet right now. With all those words, there is a way to say anything you could possibly ever want to say.
     
  11. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    Double post . .
     
  12. Muff
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    Muff Member

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    I think that very direct descriptions like this are ok in moderation. So often I have been taught 'show not tell', but then I go read a classic and see a lot of telling. Ultimately, it all depends on the strength of the rest of your writing.
     
  13. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Show not tell can also lock your into a box that stifles your writing. All stories have a mix of both. Just make sure your story is good, flows well, and the mix will take care of itself.
     

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