1. AvihooI
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    AvihooI Member

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    Language, anybody?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AvihooI, May 8, 2011.

    Hello people...

    I have recently begun writing my first novel by thoroughly building a world, and on top of it a few characters. I haven't gotten into the process of writing an outline because I really want to get the preparations done properly.

    Here's the deal... English isn't my native tongue. However, I've studied and spoken it ever since I was seven (with a different learning curve you'd expect from a native speaker.) Why don't I write a novel in my own language? Well, most of the books I read are in English, and I wish to address a much larger population with my writing than just the people in my country.

    Now, the biggest issue is, when I read English novels I am struck by the level of language that's used. It seems to me, as if I would never be capable of coming up with the diversity and magnitude of the language that's presented by practically any common author.

    I am aware that many drafts are written and revisions being made before the final composition is presented. However, are those drafts written in a high level of language straight away? Or does it take time for the author to achieve a colorful and poetic use of words?

    I know this may sound peculiar, but maybe it's just the insecurity I have with the English language as a second language. I do think my vocabulary is fairly ok and that with the right process, I can achieve good looking results, but this mere issue boggles me.

    If you guys have anything that can enlighten me on this matter, please let me know.
     
  2. Demented_Thoughts
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    Demented_Thoughts Member

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    English being my first language i suffer from this fear also. I'm glad to see i'm not the only one. I feel my Vocabulary is ok as well and a little brushing up could do but then i feel i misuse words or word things wrong.

    Sometimes i thought reading the dictionary would do the trick but all that did was make me feel more down. I was hoping to made find some workshops to help aide with this but no such luck yet
     
  3. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    You were fortunate that you started learning at the age of seven; that was early enough for you to pass as a native. Based on your posting, your English is better than some of the native speakers on this forum. Different writers use language in different ways. If you are "struck by the level of language that's used" in the novels you read then I suspect you are reading authors who go in for that sort of thing, but other successful authors keep the language basic so it doesn't get in the way of the story. That's not a bad way to start anyway -- concentrate on a good story with good imagery and write it using straightforward language you are comfortable with. Who are the authors you are reading who are intimidating you?
     
  4. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    I always say this, it's not the diction that makes the story. Do not worry about it. Its how you tell the story that counts. The diction will come with time and from what I can see in your post on the forum, you should have no problem.
     
  5. AvihooI
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    AvihooI Member

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    I'd guess folks like Douglas Adams, R.A. Salvatore, Robin Cook, JRR. Tolkien.

    Come to look at those myself, there is a point in saying they're the ones who go for high level of language. Nonetheless, I just wish to be able to reenact some of those abilities myself.

    So you're saying there is nothing wrong with keeping it simpler than the big guys, in terms of language, and focus more on telling a good story? I guess I haven't thought of it that way.
     
  6. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    One size does not fit all. The less is more babble thrown around in an arbitrary fashion does apply to the genre you are writing in. You will not be expected to weave the roller coaster sentences that are commonplace in a romance. Ya dig?....good luck

    One of the hallmarks of good fiction is the use of strong, original verbs! Advice justifying the use of limp verbs under the heading of "less is more" is akin to malpractice.

    Strong verbs stand alone. They don't need helpers. Banish any adverb/weak verb combos

    Verbs based on nouns are strong verbs. Sit in a room, look around and start naming every noun you see. What you'll discover is that many of our most muscular verbs are based on nouns. And in the process of turning nouns into verbs, you might stretch your mind a bit to discover some hot new verbs.

    Instead of "He walks into the room," choose one from below
    stumbles, staggers, shoulders, ambles, meanders, shuffles, bounds, careens, trips, plunges, dives, blasts, thunders, tiptoes, inches, edges


    Instead of "He looks at her," why not one of these
    ogles, glares, stares, gapes, squints, locks on, fixes on, gawks, leers, peers, gazes, eyes, focuses on, scowls, glowers
     
  7. AvihooI
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    AvihooI Member

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    That's quite helpful; taking a common verb and expand it to its nuance meaning by using a synonym. That I guess is one of the processes that should be done when editing a draft.
     
  8. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Sentences that use walked, sat, and thought pale in comparison to stalked, sprawled, and stewed. However, don't label yourself as a failure if strong verbs don't automatically show up. Adding stronger verbs is something you do in your rewriting.


    The purpose of your first draft is to get the story on the page, in all it's unedited glory. Once you've got it down, you can analyze it for overuse of adverbs, adjectives, cliches--and wimpy verbs.
     
  9. Cthulhu
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    Cthulhu Member

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    Language doesn't make a novel, story and characters do.
    Keep in mind the Mark Twain quote " The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."
    The right word can be 'ain't' just as easily as 'stygian'.
    If you interested in vocabulary building I recommend early twentieth century writers especially Robert E. Howard.

    BTY-Your English is better than many native speakers I've known
     
  10. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    If your opening describes the weather, the scenery or someone's background, then it tells, rather than shows. Contemporary fiction does not begin with static exposition; it jumps in and hooks the reader with strong verbs.
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, taking just two of those. A large part of Douglas Adams' appeal came from his clever play with language. Few native English speakers could hope to match it, so don't sweat that one. And J R R Tolkein used what became known as "Wardour Street English", named after a street in London that at the time was noted for fake antiques. Many (including me) think that his high-flown language -- his fake high-flown language -- significantly detracts from his work, although his readership seems to get on with it ok. I wouldn't suggest it as something to copy.
    You will have a great deal of difficulty keeping it simpler than some of the big guys. It takes a lot of work and skill to write as simply and cleanly as Conrad or Hemmingway did. It's just that you're reading big guys who didn't write simply.
     
  12. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your English sounds very good, going by your post. :)

    I wouldn't worry at all. The fact that you've spoken English from a very young age and read a lot in English are major plus points.

    No, first drafts aren't always all that great. It takes a lot of revision to polish and turn it into something 'great'.

    I'd also say a lot of flowery, complicated language doesn't always make a book better. I for one much prefer writing that's to the point.

    What are you working on?
     
  13. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    Words shouldn't define your work. The best is a balance.

    How many books have you read where you know that the writer is deliberately using "big" words just to sound good. I can name a few of the top off my head and they turn me off.

    Writing is something that when presented, it should feel natural. Sometimes, simple words are the better than big words.

    A great example of this is southern novels. The word usage in most southern novels is very simple, but at the same time, it's wordy to give off an nice balance.

    You would see something like: "Well, I happened to think that he was wrong" vs. "I thought he was wrong."

    Sometimes, writing is deliberately misspoken so that reader can better identify with the characters and where they come from. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is a perfect example of this. He would deliberately use double negatives like: "I ain't got no money." or mispronounce words like "dat" for "that." But it was done to show the reader Huck's background and upbringing.

    If you're having to looking up meanings of every word and stopping to think every few seconds of a better word to use... it's not natural. And if may also risk going overboard with it... then you have to wonder, do you yourself understand what you wrote or do you need to read it twice. And if you do, think about the readers.
     
  14. AvihooI
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    AvihooI Member

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    I am working on a novel with an early medieval theme. The world itself is fictional but realistic (no magic, spells and Elves type of fantasy).

    I have a deep interest in history. Telling a story based on the middle-ages seems very appealing. I haven't gotten into plotting the story yet because I feel I have to get to know the world and the main characters first (which practically means writing dozens of pages and notes regarding the story world by itself).

    It is going quite well, and things slowly but surely begin to shape form and make sense. I assume it would take me a couple of weeks until I actually begin plotting.
     

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