1. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    Predictable Phrasings and Tips.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by darkhaloangel, Jun 11, 2011.

    We all talk, and hopefully we all read a great deal, and these forms of communication and built up a resevoir of words that go together and sound right, but are esentially cliches.

    For example:

    I say and writes these almost without noticing - but as of recently I've been having a crack down and eliminating them from my writing (not this post though! - Please forget cliched elements of the phrase crack down!).

    But how? Any one got any opinions on these word couplings? And/or have tips to variate word usage that isn't just, 'use a thesaurus dumb-ass.'

    How far is too far as well? If you were to shun all predicatable word phrases you may end up with an incomprehensible manuscript so where do you draw the line?

    Thanks for reading.
     
  2. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Haha I felt a surge of guilt at "Pouring over a book." I've literal written that like less than 15 minutes ago.
     
  3. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find nothing wrong with the phrases you have mentioned and don't feel they should be completely avoided. Overusing them would be a mistake but you don't have to find a substitute the instant these phrases get written.
     
  4. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    It is best to use cliches as little as you can or not at all. I have been told, through my AP teacher, that you need to show your publisher, professor, etc, that you are capable of original and intelligent thought. It is likely, given time, that you will find something more euphonious.
     
  5. animefans12
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    animefans12 Member

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    I agree with The-Joker. There's nothing wrong with the phrases, but just don't overuse them! ;D
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    By the way, it's "poring over a book." Not "pouring."

    That is the essence of cliche. The words are placed there without meaning, without thought. Granted, "pore" as a verb is not a widely used or understood word. But if the reader gets no visceral reaction to the words, the phrase is at least partially a failure anyway.
     
  7. Declan
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    Declan Senior Member

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    Read Politics and the English Language by George Orwell (you can find it with a google search). It will tell you all about cliches and recycled word usages and how to avoid them. I can't express enough how good that essay is.
     
  8. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    The problem is you can't control the use by other writers. When other writers over use a phrase, it becomes a literary cliche, and a well-read writer will see it as such and your own words will lose meaning if they're such.

    The best defense is to read a lot. It's part of the reasons writers are suggested to not only read, but study the writing of others. It becomes clear, over time, what sorts of phrases become over used (hearts racing, for instance) and can be avoided. It also becomes clear which writers being published are good, and why.
     
  9. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    Alas, now we envision cooking - perhaps I've unwitting discovered my uncliched phrasings.

    It's not neccessary failure of a visceral reaction that's the problem. Bitter North Wind is evokative and in the right hands very successful, but it does sound like someone elses words. Overuse will make it meaningless, but I don't think it's quite there yet. It's about cliches that aren't quite cliches yet, they are before their formation point.


    *le sigh* The irony being I stated the post with 'we all read a great deal' infering that I am a well read individual (at least for the amount of books I can squish into my pretty short life), and yet you advice is to read more.

    Although there are plenty of other readers here that this advice may help (if they aren't reading that much now, lets be honest, they aren't going to start!)
     
  10. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    That sounds very good. I will try and find it now. Thanks.
     
  11. Lord Malum
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    Lord Malum Senior Member

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    :D I've noticed the same things! Annoying little buggers... I just get creative with words. You don't always need a theasaurus to fix these. And sometimes you don't even need to fix them. Cliches can be useful, just don't overdo it. Try coining your own phrases when you come to a place where you would use one of these (or one like it) on a scrap piece of paper. It can be fun!
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It isn't a matter of choosing a different word out of a thesaurus. It's a matter of choosing a different image. Picture your scene in your mind (use all your senses!) and study that scene, for a long time if you need to. Then ask yourself whether "bitter" is the best word to describe that north wind. Chances are, if you see your scene clearly enough, and FEEL that wind, you'll come up with something fresher and more original. That fresher image will really clarify the image in your reader's mind.
     
  13. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    Thing is: how does one find that almost intangible line between using fresh expressions and just sounding odd?
     
  14. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    By not finding a different way to say something, but the right way to say it. For every character in any given moment there will be a truth of that character/moment/scene's existence. The job of the writer is to try to get beyond the language to find a way to that truth, a way to express something that instead of any attention being given to the phrasing, all attention is given to the experience created.

    So, yeah, if you're too cliche, then attention can be brought to a phrase (as one groans). If you're too odd, and the phrasing sounds weird, or is just contrived for the character/scene/moment, then that's also bringing attention to the phrasing. People think great writers find a way to say things in pretty or interesting or complex ways, but imo great writers find a way to say things in a way that you don't even care or notice how it's said (until perhaps a second reading to study the text). Great writers are when, after a scene about 'bitter wind' you find yourself not thinking about the term or phrasing, but feeling the chill the character is feeling.

    But, if you're thinking about language, you aren't feeling a story, you're simply reading one. And, imo, good fiction isn't read, but simply happens.
     
  15. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    True but language is a way of contructing our how we very our reality. It is our reality. Therefore when I feel a cold wind I think of it as bitter. In a way it is very valid, but when you're reading it you can't help but feel you're reading the same words as are used by everyone writer.The experience however are directly linked. It's that whole poststructural thing? I think can never tell the difference..

    The two are instrinsically linking not seperate ideal - and just blathering out a story is not a good way to write it. There is no reason for it to feel forced, but likewise not to be boring or predictable. Careful attension to the words you are using are important. I do not subscribe to the stream of consciousness style of writing.

    Thanks for all opinions though, I bet a lot of peeps don't even notice they're using them.
     
  16. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Oddly enough this is how I write and (also oddly enough) I seem to manage to do so while simultaneously paying careful attention to the words I am using and managing to be neither boring or predictable (for the most part). Editing is always needed to a degree but I think it's a bit arrogant to assume that just "blathering out a story" is going to make it forced, boring, or predictable. Unless I'm misunderstanding somehow?

    Furthermore I don't even think that's what he was referring to. I would guess (the way I read it) that he was referring to the way it's read, not the way it's written. In that, when fiction is written well, the reader isn't thinking about the words, they're feeling the experience through the character. That's just my take on it, though I could be misunderstanding him as well.


    I don't subscribe to the snowflake method, character sheets, spreadsheets, or vogue. Good to know though :)
     
  17. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    popsicledeath didn't clarify whether he was commenting on the writers or the readers point of view.

    I assumed that he was looking at both; i.e the writer as reader. True words should fly under the radar, at the same time though, that's exactly what a cliche achieves in writing.

    In my original post I talked about how when you look back over your work the cliched elements become more prominet. Therefore a blathering approach would hide these cliches, as they would slip under the radar of the writer. I was not asking whether this happened.

    If however it does happen to you - how do you create some of your original and evokative phrasings - give us a couple of examples etc...

    Just trying to move the discussion on!
     
  18. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I still maintain I don't see anything wrong with those phrases, if they're not overused. There are some cringe-worthy cliches but these don't fall under that bracket.

    Example


    Cooper had spent the past week poring over piles of how-to-write books and as a result had a head clogged with idioms, rules and phrases, but he still had no idea whatsoever how to begin his soon-to-be New York Times Bestseller.

    "You need to just start writing," his friend Trish said. "And read. Don't forget the reading. Not this how-to drivel, but novels. Read, read, read. It's the key to everything. The answer to the universe. The purpose of life."

    Not wanting to suffer Trish's wrath one second further, Cooper hastily nodded his head. "Got you. loud and clear." He made for the door, but as he walked out his eyes couldn't help but linger on the glossy blue thesaurus on the coffee table.
     
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  19. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Ah well, we all know what "assume" does don't we? ;)

    I think Joker has done a good job here, and I must admit that I don't really understand what you're trying to say here Darkhalo. How would "blathering" hide cliches any better than any other method? You seem to think a writer using a so-called blathering approach would automatically lack editing skills? If what -exactly- happens to me? That I use cliches? That I blather? That I'm evocative? Original? I'm also afraid I fail to see the point of your request for "original and evocative phrasings"...
     
  20. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    The "blathering" stuff was just her completely misunderstanding the portion of a quote she took out of context that good writing isn't read, but (if you read the rest of the post) good writers make the language invisible so the fiction is instead just happening.

    She assumed, despite my post, I mean a writer should just blather on with steam of consciousness without any attention to what they were writing, which is in fact the opposite of what the rest of the post the quote was taken from talks about.

    So yeah, all the 'blathering' stuff is beside the point and an off-topic tangent ironically started from a misunderstanding.

    I guess I still don't see what he big fuss is, though. If one well read and recognize such cliche or expected phrasings, as the OP has made sure to state and clarify, then what's the problem? If you use such phrasings you'll recognize them and can just edit them out. Ideally, just not write them in the first place.

    What's left? Wanting specific tips on how to write better? The tip is in the fact one should read, learn to recognize weak writing, and then not do it.

    I gave my quick and dirty response how to write better and it just lead to all this "blathering" misunderstanding and tangent, which I'm sorry for.

    And cliches don't fly under the radar for someone who is well read, as that's half the point of the thread, it seems.
     
  21. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Ah.... hmmm. That's what I thought you were saying and what I tried to explain, but perhaps I failed as well? I guess you've said it all then, haven't you? My work appears to be done, lol. There really isn't anything else to say that I can see, since you've already said it. What more is there, really? If you see it, edit it out. Done.

    (still curious about what exactly she thinks happens to me and why she needs examples though. Guess I'll have to wait for that...)
     
  22. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Me too. I know writers of all different styles and methods, the one thing that stays constant is they all revise.
     
  23. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    Well, I think that these "cliches" for want of another word, do fly under the radar - as evidenced by the fact that most posters don't seem to think there is anything wrong with the above phrasings.

    Although I wasn't asking about finding them - but about changing them. I also though it would be a good discussion point, but as I've discovered very quickly from these boards, they're more like lecture points!

    I do like to play devils advocate! (cliche?) I don't believe the style of approach, effect what you write in terms of word use. Just to get that out the way. As you were posters!
     
  24. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Fascinating as I don't believe your previous post came across that way at all, but I digress (cliche, haha).

    Anywho.... here's the thing, sometimes a cliche is a cliche because it is overused and annoying. Sometimes a cliche is a cliche because it is effective and works. I can say:

    "The bitter north wind cut to the bone and left her shivering in her thick coat."

    "The bitter wind hailed from the north and left naught but destruction in it's path."

    "They found themselves lost in a swirling haze of snow, the product of an especially bitter storm from the north."

    "The bitter north wind arrived while they were sleeping and left drifts of snow over three feet high in it's wake."

    Some of these may or not be effective. Not even one of them is if in the context of the story you are left focusing on it alone. If it gives pertinent information however there really IS nothing wrong with it, imo, unless you're using it just to use it. Because you think it's cute, or you just always wanted to write a book with the words "Bitter North Wind" in it. If I were to go back up and change those to east wind would that be helpful? No. We don't think of bitter winds as coming from the east do we? The point is you write what you need to write to make your point. To make it clear, to move the story forward. If you find something you don't like, edit it out whether it's a cliche or overuse of pronouns.

    As to your statement about them flying under the radar and how to find them and such, I just don't honestly understand. Cliches are usually easily recognized. The only thing I could say is read more in the hopes you'll see them more often and find them more easily (Oh maaaaan, I saw that in the last six books I read) and work on your editing skills. That's all that really can be said. I know from earlier in the thread that you don't like that answer cause you read all the time and such, but this is a generalized answer (intended to be helpful to everyone not just you), because if you can't see them you either DO need to read more, work on your editing skills, or not baby your writing so much. The same goes for changing them. Once found, editing them should be a snap. You're simply trying to present information, correct? Find another way to present the same info or decide if the info is truly necessary to the story. If you're reading and editing (effectively) often this shouldn't be much of a challenge. I certainly don't mean it to be rude, it's just the way it is and it's not personal, it's how you make writing better. This also isn't a "lecture" it's a statement of opinion, formatted in response to a request for help.
     
  25. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    Hi Trish,

    Interestingly enough I would draw you back to my original statement.

    Perhaps I should have stressed the word 'almost' :)
     

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