1. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Mindlessly??

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Alesia, May 21, 2013.

    "A woman, alone and seemingly lost in her own little world, walked north along the desolate remains of a highway; mindlessly staring into the distance."

    First off, does this sentence seem redundant?

    Second, at the end, is "mindlessly" the correct word you would want to use in a situation where someone is walking along just kind of staring off into the distance, not really caring about or paying attention to anything other than the thoughts and fantasies going on their head?
     
  2. rhduke
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    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

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    It seems a little bit redundant with "seemingly lost in her own little world" already said. But it does flesh out her visual expression, so I'd say it's fine the way it is. It wouldn't change much if you just removed the word "mindlessly" altogether though.
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with rhduke. You can remove "mindlessly" without changing the meaning much; in fact, I think you'd be improving the meaning. "Mindlessly", to me, means someone with no intelligence, like a zombie, rather than someone who is lost in thought.

    Another option you could try is "staring vacantly into the distance."
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just FYI, the semicolon is incorrect--the phrase that follows it is not a complete sentence.

    I think that "mindlessly staring" and "...in her own little world" do seem redundant. Also, how does the observer know that she's mindless? I agree that "vacantly" works--that's something that can be observed.
     
  5. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    THERE WE GO! I kept racking my brain trying to find that right word to describe basically, "staring vacantly." You're absolutely right, she's not being mindless like brainless, because she IS thinking, alot, but he thoughts have her wrapped up in her own little universe causing her to not pay much attention to the world around her.
     
  6. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Numbly works.

    Though the sentence flows better as:

    Lost within her own world, a woman walked alone upon the desolate remains of the old highway, numbly staring into the distance.
     
  7. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Is there much difference between "numbly" and "vacantly"? It was my understanding that to say "numbly" carried a connotation of having absolutely no emotion, whereas "vacantly" was more like a simple blank expression.

    If it helps, the context in the story as a whole is she left home at 17 and joined the military, but left as a seven year veteran after seeing things that left her with, I guess you'd say PTSD in the form of nightmares, flashbacks, etc.. She never went home afterward though, rather spent another three years drifting around the country doing odd jobs in different towns all while in the throws of addiction and other issues. Anyway, this particular part of the story which is pretty much near the beginning, she's 27 and starting to come to terms with some of this stuff and is walking this road because she's finally ready to go home and going through her mind is all these thoughts of her mother she hasn't seen, written to, or called in 10 years, an old boyfriend, her childhood, and many other things. It might help to mention where she is, she can see the buildings of her home town far on the horizon.
     
  8. rhduke
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    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

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    From that description, maybe she'd have more of a hardened or weathered expression? That much experience starting at a young age would cause more of a mature expression rather than a vacant expression. That's just me anyway. It's completely understandable that she's more broken than hardened, so what you have works.

    I think "numbly" makes me think about an innocent person who is kind of traumatized. "Vacantly" implies less sympathy. Either one works visually, but I personally like "vacantly" more.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I would lose both 'seemingly', a word indicating lack of conviction in the image, and 'mindlessly', because there is no need for it.
     
  10. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Personally, I leaned toward "vacantly" because it really is a situation where she's so wrapped up in her thoughts if someone were to walk by and try to get her attention it would be like "huh? Oh yeah hi." snap back to reality kind of thing.
     
  11. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    One more question that fits in here, is there such an expression as "casually lost in her own little world"? I could swear I've heard it somewhere before.
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There may be, but I've never heard it. I don't think it fits the mood you want.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why not avoid the adverb entirely:
    Be frugal with modifiers, and invest in expressive verbs instead.
     
  14. Emily Kevil
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    Emily Kevil New Member

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    I like Cogito's revision of the sentence. I think adverbs are rarely necessary. Changing "mindlessly" to "vacantly" doesn't change the meaning much for me, either; vacantly still implies emptiness, and you say your character is actually full of thoughts. I think the act alone of gazing into the distance shows the reader that the character's mind is elsewhere.
     
  15. Somnus
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    Somnus Member

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    What I would use myself for that definition is 'absentmindedly', but yes, the fact that she's self-absorbed seems to be repeated a bit too often.
     
  16. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Hmmm....yeah. Why not avoid the adverb altogether.

    ;-P
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Still an adverb, Nee :p
     

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