1. Kimi-chan
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    Kimi-chan Member

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    Vocabulary troubles...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Kimi-chan, Nov 26, 2011.

    The trouble I have with writing is the proper use of Vocabulary. Reading doesn't always do me very much good because of my poor reading comprehension. I always have trouble finding the write words to explain something like, I'll look up articles of clothing to describe what my characters wearing yet... with the way some clothes are stitched, I always have a hard time explaining it to give the reader an idea of what it looks like.

    Or sometimes its just the general explanation for vocabulary when I write. I end up using the same lines over and over. I notice how my sentence structure is also very suckish too. I always hate my sentence structure because I notice with most authors they tend to use all different types of sentence structure and for me it's always a challenge. I just kind of hate how I can't explain anything with the proper use of vocabulary. It ends up messing with my sentence structure. When I'm writing like this, as I am typing now, it doesn't seem as bad but in writing, I always have a much harder time. ._.

    Does anyone else have this problem or... is it just me? I just need to know how to improve on vocabulary. I don't like taking vocabulary words, looking them up and writing the definitions because that just frustrates me... I need a more simple method that might help me. I guess its because at times, I still have trouble with expression even in writing.
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You need to read. That's what everybody will tell you, and everybody is right. But you say you have poor reading comprehension - why is that? Can you work on that? Memorizing lists of "vocabulary words" won't help much, because they won't have any context, and if they don't have any context, it's almost impossible to learn how to properly use them.

    I really don't think there's an easy, quick way to improve vocabulary. Just read and write, read and write. And be patient.

    And it's the same with sentence structure. You say you keep using the same lines over and over. Part of that is simply restrictions you're inadvertently placing on your imagination - loosen up your mind. Read what good writers do. Analyze their paragraphs. You'll find they don't write like this:

    "Fred woke up. Fred put on his clothes. Fred made coffee and read the newspaper. Then Fred left the house and went to work."

    Instead, they'll write something more like this (I'm not saying this is good, but at least it isn't parallel construction all the time.):

    "The alarm went off, but Fred was already awake. The Peterson proposal was due this morning and he'd been stewing over the specifics for most of the night. Yawning, damning himself for drinking too much the previous night, he shuffled into his clothes and wondered for the fiftieth time what he was going to tell his boss. Better not think about that until he absolutely had to. The newspaper didn't help - market down, gridlock in Congress, even the Cowboys lost again - and what the hell was wrong with his coffee? Soap in the mug?" Etc. etc.

    As I said, it's not very good (I just threw it together), but it does have enough variety to pass muster. Don't just say what your character is doing; include what he's thinking as well, and why. Once again, READ. Find out what the pros do, and analyze that. Compare their work to your own, and find out why yours is falling short. It won't be a mystery.
     
  3. Kimi-chan
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    Kimi-chan Member

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    But I've TRIED that. As for the bolded part, its because I have a learning disability. When I read... I don't feel like its doing me any good. Even if I read a lot about something, its like... nothing stays in memory or intact. The thing is that when I read, I read but I can't sue what I've read to help me, even if I tried... my mind starts dropping tons of blanks.

    I just can't process it very well.
     
  4. Allan Paas
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    Allan Paas Contributing Member

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    I remember from school in some subjects things just didn't stick with, forgot them easily, and that because I wasn't interested in the first place. Something that simply wasn't for me. Later, when I was done with school I realized what feels right for me - becoming a writer. I went to university to learn chemistry, felt like a good idea, and chemistry itself is an OK area, but not for me. So I did the best thing and left. The point is you need to find what is right for you, you might feel like it would be good to be a doctor, astronaut, writer, or whoever, but that doesn't mean its "right" for you. Luckily for me I found that out quite early, without wasting many years.

    When it comes to vocabulary, the only way you really can improve it is by learning the words, reading, writing stories, and also just writing sentences with the words you did not know before. Learning the words, the definitions, it IS very frustrating, especially if you do it for a whole year straight. But if you seriously want to become a writer, and that is what it might take, and so it is what you have to do.
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you tried listening to books instead? If reading is not for you maybe you could try audio-books instead and see if it helps.
     
  6. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could try some rewrite exercises. For example, choose a sentence from your writing (and do a Word grammar and spellcheck on it), or take a random sentence from a book, e.g.
    The reason John didn't go to work was that he felt too tired.
    Then try changing the sentence structure:
    John didn't go to work because he felt too tired.
    Then change a few of the words:
    John didn't go to work because he felt exhausted.
    Then punch it up a bit:
    John didn't make it in to work because he felt absolutely exhausted.
    And then on to the next sentence...
     
  7. FoxPaw
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    FoxPaw Senior Member

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    It's hard to read something you're not interested in. In fact, for me, it's even hard reading something I am interested in, but have taken a break from for a short while. I have a collection of Sherlock Holmes short-stories that I love reading, but haven't in a while because I took a break. This is also the reason why I can't take breaks from video games or TV series. (I'll get back to you one day Fire Emblem, I promise!)

    Anyway! There is a point to this post! I don't know if it's the ADHD that's hindering your reading, for the points I said above I know it does for me sometimes, but this is what you should do: find one thing you're really interested in reading (only one!) and read it in one go. I don't mean constantly read and disregard everything else, I mean read that, and only that one thing, without taking long breaks.

    Because of the reasons I put above, it's hard for me to read too, but when I do try, I stick by my guidelines and that helps me even with ADHD. If I'm forcing myself to constantly read one thing without switching to another or putting it down for a week or so, I can make it through a book. And when I'm done with that book, only then can I allow myself to start another.
     
  8. Kube
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    Kube Member

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    Like others have said, reading is the only real way to build vocabulary. If you have trouble reading, you need to deal with that before you try to pursue a career as a writer. Reading does more than build vocabulary. It teaches you how a story is told, how to create suspense, what makes a good story in the first place, and just about everything else you need to know to write a good book. I know this is going to sound harsh and I don't mean it to be, but the cold hard truth is that trying to be a professional writer without first being a reader would be like trying to be a fashion designer without first knowing how to dress yourself. There really are no shortcuts.

    Of course, if you just want to write stories for your own amusement or just need to get your story out because it's eating away at you then I wouldn't worry about it. Just tell your story as best you can and be done with it.

    I really wish I could be of more help, but I've tried every trick in the book to get away with not reading and there is just no substitute. Again, I really don't mean to be harsh and I wish you the best. I hope you can find some way around your disability.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    from what you say, it seems clear to me that you have more problems with writing than just vocabulary, so i would strongly suggest you take a good creative writing course... there are a few good online ones, but you can probably also find some in your local colleges and universities, if you're near enough to any...

    to upgrade your vocabulary, the best methods are:

    1. keep a large, unabridged dictionary handy and 'browse' it in your spare time [at breakfast, in the bathroom, whatever]

    2. read constantly, the best works of the best writers and look up all words you aren't familiar with

    3. subscribe to the ny times and do the daily crossword till you can finish them in 15 minutes [in ink!], then get some sunday crossword collections and do one or more of those daily... when you can finish the sundays in 30 minutes [in ink], you'll have a pretty healthy vocabulary!
     
  10. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have taught English as a second language to students with dyslexia, narcolepsy and eyesight problems, just to name a few difficulties. It's amazing what a bit of hard work can acheive. You won't get anywhere if you don't apply yourself.
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is an excellent suggestion!
     
  12. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    The great thing about this example is that the length of sentences is varied; using all long or all short sentences is generally undesirable. You want a good mixture of both. Also, I didn't need to consult a dictionary or thesaurus to understand anything here. If there were a word I didn't understand, I could probably figure it out by the context.

    Not all writers are vocab experts who memorize definitions of a variety of rare and unique words. It's great to have a wide vocabulary so you can use the most apt word when writing. But using what you've got effectively is more important. Grammar, sentence structure, spelling, coherence -- these are your best tools, so focus on getting those down using the vocabulary you've got before looking to expand your word base.
     
  13. Kimi-chan
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    Kimi-chan Member

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    Here are some examples of my sentences from my current story, if it will help you notice the troubles I have.

    Example one: Sayuri ran upstairs after him just make sure he was okay. Her worry had grew as she peeked into his room and saw him laying down. Kusagi placed his hand over Kaimu's forehead and frowned. The heat from his cheeks and forehead could only mean one thing; a high fever.

    Example two: Sayuri was excited about going Christmas shopping while her twin brother was the opposite. He didn't like being out in public with huge crowds of people. It didn't help him at all even if he was with his twin sister or even people who considered him part of their family. Sasuke wanted to stay in their room and not come out but Sayuri grabbed his hand anyway.

    Example three: Sasuke rushed back upstairs to grab his ipad and followed his twin sister back downstairs. Without his ipad, he knew he would be unable to communicate. To him it would be a big problem. There was no other way for him to communicate.

    The thing is that, I do this all the time. I can't work with these sentences. I can't find words to add in to make them more structured or take words out to make them explain more.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My thought is that you may be better off trying to perfect your own voice, rather than trying to fundamentally change it. You have a very direct, straightforward style of writing, using a clean simple vocabulary, without a lot of poetry and flourishes. That is not necessarily a bad thing; simplicity has value. I think that you're better off honing that simplicity than trying to artificially tack a lot of frills onto it.

    How to hone it? I'm not sure. :) But I'd suggest researching minimalist writing, and famous minimalist writers. Hemingway comes to mind; he's all I know because minimalist writing is not all that much to my taste, but a person can't remain unaware of Hemingway.

    You will probably never have a light or genial or purple-prose voice. But that doesn't mean that you can't develop a very fine voice, working with your directness and simplicity rather than against it.

    ChickenFreak
     
  15. Kimi-chan
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    Kimi-chan Member

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    But my writing... feels so bland. I'm not very pleased with the style of it because its not explaining what is going on. It's like you are saying... almost as if you were writing, "See spot run. Spot ran towards the tree. He chased the cat up there. The cat hissed and meowed. Spot tried climbing the tree." etc, etc.

    I kind of hate my writing style.
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    So does Hemingway's, in my view. :) If you Google, you'll find a number of samples. (I don't know; maybe you've already read lots of his work.)

    I feel that minimalist writing is sort of a window that reveals the events and emotions beneath, rather than a style or voice that expresses opinions about those events and emotions. I do understand that it can feel unsatisfying, but I do think that it's worthwhile to do some research on the idea, to see if you can find some minimalist writers that you can admire. You seem to be searching for a way to add the frills; I'd instead search for a way to make your natural style into one that is more satisfying to you, without completely turning it inside out.

    I'm trying to make an analogy to visual art, but I'm hampered by the fact that this site doesn't allow URLs in posts (right?) but here's my best try: If I Google for "Maxfield Parrish" I see a lot of work by this artist, who uses a lot of texture and detail and subtle variations of color. If I Google for "vintage travel posters", many of the results have bold, simple colors and shapes, but they're not bland. An artist whose talents were more inclined to the bold and simple would likely fail if he tried instead to paint like Maxfield Parrish.

    So I'm suggesting that you search for authors that write with direct simplicity, but are _not_ bland, and try to learn from them, rather than trying to learn from the author equivalent of Maxfield Parrish. And to me, that means that vocabulary may not be an important issue right now. I'd suggest doing the research, and then figuring out what issues to work on.

    ChickenFreak
     
  17. Allan Paas
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    Allan Paas Contributing Member

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    Maybe trying to write it as if you were talking to another person would make it better? If you were in a real-life situation and you had to tell what you are seeing to someone right next to you, would that be in the same style as your writing? I doubt you converse with others in the same style as you write. Maybe trying to combine those two, or swap one out with the other?
     
  18. Kimi-chan
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    Kimi-chan Member

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    I thought of a better way to help me. I thought of my favorite j-rock band and I imagined how they create music. First, they start with words and they try to find the emotions for what those words are. But in order to make those words better, they add the right music style by adding drums, the guitars and bass and then the vocalist. When my favorite band sings, they use ALL of their emotion. They feel each others emotion and what their bandmates feel too.

    Music is my biggest inspiration. It works because, then, if I think like this... then I can think of how music comes into play. It opens up my mind more and makes me realize how to make my work just like music is playing as I am writing the words.
     
  19. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You have some grammar errors to correct, especially in your first example. But I think the main issue you're having is that you're narrating very simply. All you're saying is: "This happened, then this happened, then that happened." There's no room for breathing in your prose. You aren't incorporating the material that's in your imagination into the narrative. Look at the examples I posted earlier. The one starting "Fred woke up ..." looks like the kind of thing you're writing. There's nothing there except what your characters are doing in the moment. You're not trying to fill in the canvas of the scene, so to speak. You're not loosening up your prose to incorporate what's in your imagination.

    In my second example, I talked about alarm clocks and Peterson proposals and bosses and drinking too much and what was in the newspaper and the coffee. I brought all that stuff in because it helps complete the picture of what's going on at the time the character is acting. I know you have that kind of stuff in your imagination as you're writing your scene, but you're not bringing it in. Bring it in. Your scene will be livelier and stronger.
     
  20. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    You may want to try to write your thoughts, then think of how you can improve on each sentence. Was it clear what you were trying to say? Are there better or other words you could use to avoid redundancy? Could you break a long sentence into two or merge two short sentences into a longer one? What is the flow and pace like? Is there a rhythm or are all the ideas approximately the same length? I write freely for awhile, then revise over and over so it has the correct meaning and feel that I want. You can't put it out there all at once. If I cannot think of the right word for something, I'll put another word or description in parenthesis and go back later and fix it so it doesn't interrupt my thoughts. It's not important that I think of the correct word at that time. So, write freely at first, then think of how you can improve.

    I agree with others who say that reading is the best thing you can do to notice other styles of writing. Try to analyze what you do and do not like. I'm reading a novel right now that I do not like. The author uses many short, choppy sentences and I find it tedious. That's not my style. I had to stop and identify why I didn't like the novel. More than the style, the characters seems flat and uninteresting. So, perhaps think of your characters first and let the story come from developing them.

    Good luck to you!
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, grammar goofs aside, that's just a succession of 'xxx did/felt this' then 'xxx did/felt that'... what pulls readers into the scenes and keeps them reading is good imagery... your excerpts are all 'telling' and no 'showing'...

    you need to do lots of reading of the best writing, to see the differences between your boring, bland style and more compelling, reader-engaging writing styles...
     

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