1. Jupiter
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    Jupiter Member

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    Vocabulary, etc.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Jupiter, Nov 17, 2008.

    Hi,

    I write sci-fi / fantasy and I'm getting a bit worried about my vocabulary. I've just finished my second novel and I seem to be using the same words all the time. My descriptions don't feel vivid enough to me. Does anyone have any tips on improving vocab? Also, I find that the things I use as frames of reference (tarot, esoterica, astrophysics, biology) are the same things used by other sci-fi / fantasy authors and I find myself cringing because things I write sound cliched and that overshadows what I want to say. Does anyone have any ideas? Much appreciated!

    Jupiter.x
     
  2. lipton_lover
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    lipton_lover Contributing Member

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    For the references, you could just make up your own references. After all... you're probably either a)in the future or b)in another reality for fantasy so things will have changed anyways. You can also use real stuff but use it the wrong way, aka make up a new meaning for the important-sounding word, 'symbiosis'.

    To improve your vocabulary, you can use google, a thesaurus, and take note of any words you hear that you like.
    Nate
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A good vocabulary is a valuable part of a writer's toolbox. However, the number of words you know is less important than how well you know the words comprising your lexicon. For instance, if you use the word cajole to describe persuasion under the threat of a blade, you don't really know the word. To cajole someone is to persuade him or her by verbal means, particularly flattery and persistent pleading, not by force or threats.

    That is the danger of a thesaurus. A thesaurus will group words with vaguely similar meanings together, but they are NOT generally interchangeable. You not only need know the literal, dictionary meaning (denotation), you also need to understand the implied or customary shades of meaning (connotation).

    We do have a Word of the Day thread that will expose you to new words, or to less known meanings of more common words. You can also subscribe to Word of the Day features of online dictionary sites. But most important? Read and read and read, with a dictionary in reach. When an author uses a word you're unfamiliar with, or uses a word in an unfamiliar way, look it up immediately.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto all cog had to say... plus...

    the best way to expand your vocabulary is to read the best works of the best writers in OTHER genres, instead of sticking to your favorite one...

    along with that, do the daily london [and/or ny, if you write for the american market] times crosswords and work your way up to the sunday ones...
     
  5. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    I think using verbs is one of the most demanding aspects of writing with regard to vocabulary. Description comes fairly naturally. Knowing a myriad of nouns comes fairly naturally. Verbs should eliminate passive voice, which is not done much in speech (passive voice should be used knowingly in writing), and verbs can be used creatively, or wielded with scientific precision. Verbs turn sentences from simple symbolisms to living, breathing things.
     
  6. Agent Moskau
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    Agent Moskau New Member

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    Believe it or not, chatting with intelligent friends sometimes helps (that goes double if they're writers too). I mean, if you have intelligent friends. Some people don't.
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    All very true, but this can also be one of the most powerful parts of the English language.

    For almost every idea and concept there are a multitude of words that can impart the most subtle changes in nuance and meaning, giving the owner of the English Toolbox one of the most generous and versatile linguistic toolboxes on the planet. But, to extend the metaphor, having the most decked out workshop with every tool at one's disposal does not make for a master carpenter. That takes practice and use of the tools in order to achieve.
     
  8. Agent Moskau
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    Agent Moskau New Member

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    A Thesaurus is very useful if you are using it as a reminder rather than a blind work horse. If you already have an expansive vocabulary, it never hurts to find a better word for a certain instance. And even if you are not familiar with a synonym, if you're willing to look it up before you use it incorrectly (see Cogito's post), your vocabulary can only benefit from doing so. Never be afraid to ask what a word means.
     
  9. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't rule out chatting with average or less intelligent friends because their speech patterns and thought processes represent the reality that every writer needs for diverse characterization.
     
  10. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    Are you suggesting a nobleman such as I should mingle with the common riff-raff? Poppycock! May they fester in their own ignorance. 'Tis a swamp of plebeian waste into I refuse to wade.
     
  11. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    And if you're going to be using a dictionary, use the Oxford advanced learners dictionary or something like it. It won't give you the rigid, formal definition that nobody cares about, but the practical one, that allows you to grasp the meaning instantly. It also comes with example sentences.

    It's pretty hard to use a new word inappropriately, when you've got the word validated by one of these...
     
  12. blankdraft
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    blankdraft Member

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    playback those favorite sci-fi and fantasy movies of yours
     

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