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  1. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Using technical terms to describe scenery

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by agentkirb, Oct 3, 2011.

    I was reading this book earlier, and now that I've gotten into writing more and more I've started noticing the different styles of writing and different thing that different authors do. I would say one of my weaknesses in writing is the ability to make my stories descriptive. And in the book I was reading I noticed that when they described a scene... yeah they might use poetic adjectives and metaphors and all that, but they'll also specifically name what the item is. For example, they would describe the design of a house... naming things as if they were an expert in house construction. Here's a quote from the book I was referring to, "Mr. Monk on the Road" (from the book series based on the Monk TV series... which by the way I recommend if you are into non-gritty mysteries):

    "The front of the house was covered in gray scalloped shingles, with a heavy, protruding cornice arched like a raised eyebrow over the single front window..."

    I don't know exactly what a 'cornice' is. Context clues hint that it's that shade thing over some windows in houses. The point is, if I were thinking of ways to describe a similar house, I would have never in a million years thought to use that word. Anyways, the point of this thread is to ask you guys if you know of resources that could help someone learn words like that. It would say what a 'cornice' is, and similar architectural vocabulary that I could use when describing a house or building so I don't have to use dummy terms like "that thing over the window". I also have similar issues with fabrics and clothing styles because I could just call something a shirt... but certain clothing designs have very specific names.

    I know my question is a little strange but any insight into the issue would help.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    part of being a writer is having to do research when necessary... most find that an enjoyable part, to some it's a chore, but it can't be avoided, if you want to be a good writer... the up-side is that it adds to your body of knowledge...

    for the house issue, you can google for 'architectural glossary'... same goes for clothing, or any other item you want to describe... in case you're not familiar with the word, 'glossary' refers to an alphabetical list of the specific terms used in that area of expertise or field of work and they will include explanations/descriptions, often even pictures...

    or, you can go to your public library and take out books on the various subjects that will provide what you need...

    google images is another rich source of descriptive info...
     
  3. Timothy Giant
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    Timothy Giant Member

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    Part of being a writer is also making your work understandable for your intended target. If you are writing a novel aimed at people who only read leisurely, I would definitely not use technical terms. If you are writing a literary masterpiece, you are a lot freer to do what you want, regarding vocabulary, so you can throw in a whole bunch of technical words (as long as the meaning can be reasonably derived from the context, I'd say, but that's just me). If your intended audience exists of, say, carpenters, you can use technical terms regarding building and wood and stone and stuff.
    As a general rule of thumb, I'd say look to your audience first. Are they going to get it or be able to cope with or enjoy technical terms?
     
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say if you don't know what that 'thing over the window' is, you need to find out - because anyone who owns a house would most likely know it. Sometimes what one person considers a 'technical term' is simply a word they don't know, not necessarily a word known only to experts.
     
  5. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Hmmm so there IS a vocabulary database for things like architecture, clothing, etc. That's basically the answer I was hoping someone could provide.
     
  6. Earlychop
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    Earlychop Member

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    A Cornice is something used to decorate a corner or boundary of a structure, usually made of wood and can be simple or very decorative.

    As far as describing scenery, if you look to modern contemporary lit you'll see that the description of a scene is largely very simple in nature, i.e just say what you see in your head. However, in order to made it real to the reader I like to find a human connection. People don't just see the scenery we feel it. Try to find a human connection in your scenes and place it as a hint in your writing. Remember that all the senses are challenged in description and can and should be used as tools help the reader understand their situation.

    If I were to describe say...an old creepy house, I wouldn't just mention the stained wood or victorian nature of its architecture I would find a humanism. I would say, mention that its aged and sun beached boards showed signs of light red and overlapped green flakes, I would impart that once this old forgoten house was loved and decorated and once someones pride and joy.

    Also take a gander at this:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/158297327X/?tag=postedlinks-21
     
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  7. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    That's a good idea.

    It would probably help to read books that probably talk about this issue.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think you can avoid using "technical" terms in writing. Rather, I think it's one of the joys of writing, and one of the joys of reading. If I'm writing about sailing a boat, I'll use words like "starboard" and "aft" and "keel" because those are the right words. If I'm writing about statuary, I might use the word "plinth". If I'm writing about electricity, I might use words like "ampere" and "capacitor". These are the right words to use, and they convey the flavor of the subject.

    I disagree with Timothy Giant. I think that readers should accept that if they're reading outside their knowledge base, they can expect to have to open a dictionary now and then. For one thing, it allows writers to use the right words, and for another, it broadens the reader's vocabulary. When I was a kid, I used to love reading books that were, at least nominally, over my head, because they taught me things. I would hate to think that writers should limit their vocabularies just because some readers might not know a word or two. Reading is a great way to learn, and I object to the idea that we should all dumb down our stuff so that the most ignorant of our readers can understand it. We should instead be encouraging readers to learn new things.
     
  9. jjonz
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    jjonz New Member

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    research, research, research, this it the equivalent of Allen Iverson being upset because people Questioned his Practice Habits. Research is a dirty word but it must be done if you want you work to stand out. I have trouble writing descriptive scenes, maybe i should look online for examples.
     
  10. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I don't mind doing research. But it was more about wondering how people go about doing said research.
     
  11. jjonz
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    jjonz New Member

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    I check out tons of books from library, also, but the scenery part of writing is hard for me.
     

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