1. Delphinus
    Offline

    Delphinus Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Messages:
    175
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    England

    Ubiquitous Loquaicity, Ostensibly Unfavourable

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Delphinus, Dec 12, 2009.

    Overwriting is a bit of a bane for me, purple prose too. I'm afraid it might make the resulting prose a bit of a wreck of serendipitously-intended afflictions for the reader; although ostensibly (I love that word, partly because it sounds like 'ostentatious') this passage and the self-referential title were written ironically and with great self-awareness, I'd rather move away from the unchained prolaxity of Lolita and toward the simple detail of the french absurdists. Has anyone advice?
     
  2. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,911
    Likes Received:
    10,104
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    The wordsmith is always at risk of obfuscating their intent behind language both floral and arcane.

    I employ the same rule as when getting dressed. Get dressed, look in the mirror, take one thing off.
     
  3. marina
    Offline

    marina Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2008
    Messages:
    1,280
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    Seattle
    I would think just doing a good job at editing is the key, and as you continuously edit to cut out unnecessary words, your prose will slowly move in sync with those edits.
     
  4. Phantasmal Reality
    Offline

    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2009
    Messages:
    207
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Sacramento, CA
    Purple prose is poison for dramatic, popular fiction. It's great if you want to write for academics though, so they can marvel at your technique. Just know who you're writing for. :)
     
  5. Delphinus
    Offline

    Delphinus Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Messages:
    175
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    England
    What I'd like to do is be able to keep the strange and arcane language, the unconventional (totally ignored) rules of grammar, and most of all the point you're trying to mallet into your readers, all while allowing my readers to actually get excited about the action without having to consult a dictionary every few seconds.

    Ambitious? Probably. I liked what Terry Gilliam tried (and failed) at doing in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, for example.

    I have strange reasons for writing; see the stickied thread. ;)
     
  6. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Writing is communication. If you use a word less travelled, do so for precision and clarity.

    No one is really impressed by overblown language.
     
  7. bluebell80
    Offline

    bluebell80 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2009
    Messages:
    636
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Vermont
    Yep, what Cog said.
     
  8. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    I disagree a little. I agree that clarity should always come first, and you should never waste words, but there's plenty of room in fiction for linguistic acrobatics, wordplay, experimentation. Strictly functional writing is the bane of my life. People see a word that maybe they don't understand, or a phrase that is maybe not the most elementary phrase imaginable, or a few colourful adverbs and pounce on it (especially on this forum, for some reason), but none of those things are inherently bad or any worse than a more minimal approach. You're assessment of Lolita, for instance, is more or less correct, but there seems to be the underlying assumption that Nabokov's writing was superfluous, which it never is. More words/different words need not be superfluous, and while you should never use them just for the sake of it, you shouldn't be afraid to use them if you want/need to. Don't assume that all readers want a banal, cold, overly simple piece of text. Functional is fine, but it's not exactly impressive.
     
  9. Peerie Pict
    Offline

    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2009
    Messages:
    724
    Likes Received:
    29
    Location:
    Scotland
    I think functional writing, unfortunately, is all most people with busy schedules have time for. They want to be immersed in a gripping plot which is conveyed to them brilliantly but with a minimum amount of 'guff' glogging up the prose.

    I personally love literary and creative prose. I actually like encountering new words and turns of phrase which might bolster my own writing vocabulary. However, I think that's because I'm an aspiring writer and also an obsessive reader.

    As someone mentioned above, it really is about your audience and, as ever, balance.

    I also think concise, clean cut language is the most direct way to convey a message. I don't think there's such a thing as banal, cold, overly-simple language unless the subject matter is offensively mundane.
     
  10. Kas
    Offline

    Kas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Messages:
    567
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    The ***hole of the world
    It's a problem when writers think they are being clever. . . when they're really not.

    Take the title of this thread, for example. There's no art to it, nothing clever about it. The words are dropped like so many pieces of dung, and the writer takes a bow, expecting aplause. It's no wonder readers tend to wrinkle their noses in disgust.

    Commendable art in any form will find an eager market--masterful writing, especially. If a piece of writing receives many complaints, it probably stinks, somehow. Fix it. For the vast majority of people, that means going back to the basics, first, and mastering them. Then, one can work his way up to the wordsmithing he'd like to be known for, but can't yet accomplish due to his current ineptitude.

    Relatively few would-be writers ever master even the most elementary publishing level. . . and some figure they can get in on level ten? I've never used the upcoming, bolded, italicised word in this context before, but just now, it's too perfect--fail!

    One such as Nabokov could easily draw a rave following, today or any day. I've never encountered a single person who failed to recognise his skill and talent, even if they didn't like the book--and the vast majority of people who read it, like it, unless they are constrained by theistic beliefs.

    Neither readers nor publishers are to blame for current trends. More likely, a plague of talentless hacks with delusions of grandeur have lowered the standard by pelting publishers with an endless hail of crap.
     
    2 people like this.
  11. Coldwriter
    Offline

    Coldwriter Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2009
    Messages:
    281
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Some say in an idealistic bubble they cant wait to
    Kas, I think you're right about the being clever part. My ex used to roll her eyes so much at me for the oddest phrases...

    In the very short time I've been here, (laughing as i continue) I see many ways where i just fail. And it sucks. I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be hard on yourself, and honest. Perhaps many writers just get caught in the breathless desire to publish that novel and man, that idea, and that beginning is an awesome step.

    that's what i like about those who post the negative, the harsh criticism, the real deal. Give it to us, because we cant give it to ourselves.
     
  12. Delphinus
    Offline

    Delphinus Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Messages:
    175
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    England
    Said assassins of artistic aptitude are proud to count most authors of popular fiction, especially fantasy, and probably me, amongst their number. Non-fiction suffers the opposite problem; it's too bland, seemingly written by the nearest lawyer, and therefore poorly-read, even in comparison to such gems as Mills and Boon. :rolleyes:

    The title was thought up in the moment, so I hardly had time to make it some kind of masterpiece.

    I'd be interested to hear which authors you do like; most of the industry seems to be eliminated by now, and I hesitate to question how much of your critical voice is hyperbole and how much is genuine.

    Failure is something I'm used to, but wallowing in your own ****ty writing is worse than a critique.
     
  13. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    Pretentious prose usually makes me think it was written by a young student, trying to sound more intelligent and mature than they are. It's snobbish, draws unnecessary attention to itself and is generally highly annoying to read. But that's just my oppinion.
     
  14. Nobeler Than Lettuce
    Offline

    Nobeler Than Lettuce Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2008
    Messages:
    552
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Anytown USA
    The Russians are wordy man, especially Nabokov. This is a little known fact, but Hemingway honed his style with Dostoevsky, a man who's writing he described as "utterly horrible" and labeled him as "one of the worst writers of the century". Strangely, he was his hero. You should know Hemingway. He was the king of the simple statement. ("Hills Like White Elephants" was about abortion? Who knew?")

    To be honest, your original post was virtually unintelligible. Understand that, in most texts, a big word does a lot to suggest overtly what is meant, but also subtlety and more specifically what definition was desired. They are therefor made for use in the exclusion of other meanings, when the writer desires a more specific though not necessarily more vivid descriptive terms.

    You mentioned you've read Russian and French. Have you thought about the translation causing a problem with your language? After reading Chekhov in it's original language I was prone to many Ruskieizations of English phrases. For myself, I found that learning the language not only helped me to be more diverse in my word choices but also helped me to recognize when a phrase would have been poorly translated or, simply, when a sentence has become too wordy and thusly unrecognizable to a world audience. If you enjoy language at all returning to a latinate language would probably help you.
     
  15. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    best advice ever for writers is the tried and true, 'less is more'...

    and its not so polite counterpart, the old army axiom, 'K.I.S.S.!'...
     
  16. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    For beginner writers, absolutely, but like I said before, that kind of strict Functionalism isn't gonna turn any heads in the literary world unless you have an idea/a character so brilliant that people are willing to look past the writing. And for the huge number of readers for whom style is the most important factor in their opinion of a writer, that Functionalist approach isn't going to earn you any fans.
     
  17. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Writing clearly and concisely will always count more to a publisher than trying to use every word from your 2009 Word-of-the-Day Calendar.

    Publishers will be far more impressed by the adept use of a medium-sized vocabulary than by a nearly-correct use of a vast vocabulary.

    You don't need hundred dollar words to create vivid description and brisk action. You need to use words that paint a scene in the reader's mind, and if your reader doesn't know the words intimately, you will have failed.

    Do you find a need to look past the writing of Ernest Hemingway?

    Writing clearly and directly is not clumsy or plain. Done well, it is beautiful and expressive.
     
  18. Torana
    Offline

    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Messages:
    9,659
    Likes Received:
    128
    It isn't the fancy wording that makes a sale, it is the writing.

    I have experimented with different styles of writing and you will find that 99% of the time, a publisher is going to go for the piece with simple language, than fancy language. I have written some really good stuff, but it has been deemed unpublishable because of my word usage.

    If you wish to try and use a simpler vocabulary, simply get yourself a good online thesaurus and look up the word in there, and alter it. It can be a real pain, I know, but it is probably going to be the easiest way of doing it.
     
  19. Delphinus
    Offline

    Delphinus Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Messages:
    175
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    England
    Dostoevsky and Sartre are two of my favorite writers, to be honest. Other favorites include Wilde, Poe, Casanova, and, perhaps more promisingly, Douglas Adams. Perhaps I read too many translated/antiquated works? I can certainly imagine that going some way towards why I often feel a strong, almost painful sensation when I make a short, simple sentence that isn't purely used to raise tension - to me that seems a very Victorian sentiment.

    "The dreams get worse and worse each night. Not that I complain about them; not to him, at least."

    Those two sentences just seemed painfully short to me when I wrote them. Browsing through Pratchett, I found that most of his sentences, save for a few, were around that length, while Tom Jones was closer to my style in terms of sentence length.

    If I had it my way I'd force myself to write in Latin, of course. I fear that might restrict the target audience, though. ;)
     
  20. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    Hemingway isn't really a good example to use in this kind of discussion because he was exactly the kind of writer a lot of people here seem not to like; avant-garde, artistic, literary. His use of Minimalism in his time is in some ways equivalent to the kind of literary, artistic writing that is being discussed here: unpopular, frowned upon by the masses, unconventional, maybe even unpublishable had his literary contacts not been so supportive. So while his writing appeals to people's tastes nowadays, when Postmodernist Minimalism is still in vogue, even in popular fiction, it doesn't serve as evidence that simplicity is always desirable, but as evidence that literary tastes change drastically over time.

    Again, I really think this discussion comes down to the writer's intentions. Popular fiction, and I don't use the term in a derogatory way, favours simplicity because it is intended for mass consumption, it is meant to be easily read and digested, and above all else, meant to appeal to mass tastes. It is, therefore, not a form that would reward or encourage artistic or literary experimentation, and there's nothing wrong with that. But success in that style of writing is utterly different from what it is that defines success in literary fiction, where linguistic zeal and inventiveness are prized above the palatability of the writing. Communication is still a primary goal in both, but the target audience and the means of communication are markedly different.

    It is interesting to look at a novel like The Road in light of that claim; it was awarded the Pulitzer for its literary worth--found in McCarthy's writing style--the very thing that turned so many readers off, readers who were more interested in the story of a father and son in a post-apocalyptic scenario than the sparse minimalism of one of America's great writers of literary fiction. For the latter group, words are a means to an end, a necessary evil that must be worked through to find an enjoyable result in the story and characters that are evoked. For the former group, who we may dub the 'literary' readers, the words are just as viable as an end in and of themselves. The words are what are to be enjoyed, and not just for what they communicate.

    This is, I think, the key difference between popular and literary fiction. In popular fiction, the writing is intended to be transparent and unmemorable, detracting as little as possible from the stories and characters that the writing itself evokes. In literary fiction, the words are everything, style is everything, and the message is equal, if not secondary, to that. So, of course in popular fiction simplicity is often preferable (there are, of course, exceptions to every rule), but it is not as universal an aspiration as seems to be the claim here.
     
  21. InkDream
    Offline

    InkDream Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    the Evergreen State
    This kind of language is exhausting to read. If I go into a bookstore and flip open a book with that kind of language I immediately put it back and move along. I read to give my mind a break not to make it work harder. If I want to think that much and have to look up vocab words I'll read a textbook. Textbooks at least have a glossary.
     
  22. Kas
    Offline

    Kas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Messages:
    567
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    The ***hole of the world
    I love to discover new words in good writing. The meaning is usually made clear by the context in which they are used. I don't have to consult a dictionary or strain to interpret. The words enhance the message and voice while simultaneously expanding my vocabulary. Awesome. When it comes to "arcane" terminology, quality of writing makes the difference between a handful of gems glittering in the sun and a smear of fecal matter on your living room carpet.
     
  23. InkDream
    Offline

    InkDream Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    the Evergreen State
    Absolutely. When it isn't overdone.
     
  24. Kas
    Offline

    Kas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Messages:
    567
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    The ***hole of the world
    Exactly. Don't wanna just slam the OP, but I wouldn't read that for more than a sentence or two. Still, I enjoy great literary works as much as anyone.
     
  25. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,896
    Location:
    Boston
    From my experience, there are very few novels where I had to consult a dictionary. This includes both contemporary and classic novels. I had no issues with the writers that used "fancy" words because they were already established writers (Nabokov, for example).

    On the other hand, if a new writer used too many words that I didn't know, then I do admit that I would be a little wary of his/her skills as a writer. But I'm still willing to read a chapter or two to see how the novel progresses.
     

Share This Page