1. Man in the Box
    Offline

    Man in the Box Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2011
    Messages:
    254
    Likes Received:
    41
    Location:
    Brazil

    Vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Man in the Box, Oct 7, 2011.

    My problem is simple to explain, yet I think it's hard to actually solve.

    Basically, I picture a scene in my head with characters having the feelings they're supposed to have at the moment. However, when it comes to translating the scene into words, I sometimes feel that my vocabulary fails me a little. I know what feeling the character is having, I just have difficulty finding the right word for it and, in the end, I end up using something that is close to what I really mean in the text, yet it's not *the* word. Which is funny because my vocabulary (at least in my native language, which is not English) is by no means bad! Maybe I'm trying too hard to find a word for something which can't be conveyed by words?

    An issue related to this is that sometimes I fear I may sound too repetitive by overusing certain words. This fear was imprinted on me by a language teacher who often told me to avoid repetition, and it stuck. Now I keep controlling myself not to repeat the use of a word too many times, but sometimes you just have to, and I feel bothered by it. Should it be a big concern for me?
     
  2. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,722
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Your characters have feelings you can't find the words for. That's fine - it's great! The reason people tell stories is to convey emotions and thoughts that there are no words for. Look towards metaphor to help solve your problem. When vocabulary doesn't do the job, use metaphor, simile, or stories themselves. Use myth. We all know language doesn't work - it doesn't convey everything we think and feel. We use stories and metaphors to cover what language itself can't.
     
  3. Allan Paas
    Offline

    Allan Paas Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2011
    Messages:
    201
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Estonia
    Explaining emotions, feelings, and so on should come "naturally". Once you start thinking about how to explain, what words to use, your brain just freezes (or you realize that you are thinking about what words to use and then your mind becomes an empty void). At least that's how it is for me. I also have had moments when I conjure emotions, thoughts, feelings which literally do not have any existing words to describe them.

    Synonyms are good for dealing with repetitions. If you are writing in English --> www.dictionary.com.

    I remember the same from school - try to avoid repetition. Considering my vocabulary, overall knowledge of everything back then - repetition was a very stupid thing to constantly nag about. (School-systems all around the planet are very flawed, once you TRULY think about it.)

    I bought 3 books, read first and during reading 2400 words, either vague or unknown to me, accumulated. So I started manually (using keyboard) write definitions for them, and during that activity another 2000 words popped out from the previous words (4400 words - a nice 1,5 months work). Then it was time to start learning them - the worst part. After a while it feels like your mind/brain is being drained of life: read aloud, listen to the pronunciation, imagine the definition in your mind or concentrate on the feeling that is produced by the definition, try to infix it to your memory, or incorporate with previous knowledge/feelings, and all that at the same time, it gets easier after a while. Luckily I kinda enjoined writing them. And now, 8 months later, I'm still nowhere close to finishing work on my vocabulary, instead more and more new and now old stubborn words keep popping out from books. After vocabulary I'm going for grammar and stuff like that.
     
  4. AmyHolt
    Offline

    AmyHolt Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Warsaw, IN
    My characters mostly smile, frown and shrug in the the rough draft. I can't write a story and put the characters actions in "good" words at the same time. So I quit trying. After I have a working rough draft I use the Find feature to go back and rework all my smiles and frowns.
     
  5. CULLEN DORN
    Offline

    CULLEN DORN Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Messages:
    82
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Florida
    One good companion that might very well come to your aid
    is 'The Synonym Finder' ~ J. I. Rodale. It far exceeds
    a Roget's in my opinion. Good luck to you! :)
     
  6. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    Maybe your teacher was advising you how to write for school or university studies? Rules like 'no repetition' don't always apply for creative writing, especially for dialogue.

    When people talk they repeat a lot--maybe s/he is trying to force an opinion on someone, or maybe s/he is unconsciously copying the other person because s/he wants to seem sympathetic, for example. Of course, you don't want to be too long-winded and repeat all the time, but a little bit of repetition may actually make the dialogue more lifelike.

    I would just try to write out what happens in your story and then go back afterwards, reading it all to yourself and thinking about the flow of the language.

    Also, IMO a simple style and vocabulary can sometimes make the writing seem more sincere and give it more feeling than lots of clever-clever words and elaborate phrases.
     
  7. Manav
    Offline

    Manav Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2010
    Messages:
    839
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Imphal, India
    Dictionary.com and others like it are also available as android applications for mobile phones. If you always have your phone with you, you can check out the meaning and synonyms whenever you want! It's helping me a lot.
     
  8. chellelouj16
    Offline

    chellelouj16 New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    1
    We have the same problem when it comes to giving the right words to correct emotions. A friend of mine told me to read a lot so that I will have a wide array of words. In case of redundancy of words, please try to look for the synonyms of words. You may even surf the net or even use the thesaurus or dictionary.
     
  9. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    your first problem is a common one for non-native english speakers and is hard to solve without becoming fluent in the language and increasing your vocabulary in it as well...

    the second is common with all new writers, no matter what their native tongue might be and the solution only comes with time and practice and careful editing... and, yes, it should be a concern, because repeating the same words too many times makes for a boring read and just isn't good writing...
     
  10. lostinwebspace
    Offline

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Canada
    For a first draft, my advice is just write. Worry about vocabulary in an edit, but writers seem to have a hard enough time getting the idea out the first time around without worrying about other things. On a second or third draft, you can worry about turning the telling into showing and whatnot.

    What's the deal with it? I might just check it out at the bookstore.
     
  11. TheWritingWriter
    Offline

    TheWritingWriter Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2011
    Messages:
    106
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    A little to the left
    To advance your vocabulary, try to use better vocabulary in every day speak. When you see or hear an interesting word, mentally record it. Read books with better vocabulary. My psychology teacher used to tell us that cursing limits the vocabulary. So, I started cursing less, and I actually ended up widening my vocabulary so as to properly convey my thoughts in conversation; it also made the quality of my writing better.
     
  12. Herman
    Offline

    Herman New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2012
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Canada
    I share your problem and have been trying to define it better. Many of the posts in this thread were helpful to me. Thanks everyone!

    I only started looking into writing a few weeks ago (really!) but fwiw, here are my objectives:

    1) Familiarize myself with new words based on context. For example, if I want to communicate that a female character is good looking, I want to learn only those words that have relevance in this context. This way I can work through my story one specific sentence or paragraph at a time. The Corpus at the Brigham University is an excellent tool towards this goal.

    2) Maximize the use of Internet and eBook resources. I find paper books just too slow and clumsy, and I can’t carry my library with me wherever I go. Sorry guys, I know many of you still like the feel of a book!

    3) Use assistive computer programs. My grammar is extremely bad so I use a subscription proof-reader and grammar checker to help me find problems. This program also suggests common synonyms. For me, this is a great time saver.

    My biggest problem:

    I am struggling to decide how rich, in terms of vocabulary, my writing should be. I find that my reading vocabulary is much greater than my writing vocabulary. Often, when I read a book, I come across a word that I don’t know the exact meaning for, but that doesn’t stop me from reading. I can still perfectly follow and enjoy the story. However, sometimes words are so foreign that they interrupt the flow of reading. This is especially annoying when several such words are in proximity to each other. When this happens I ask myself whether these words enhance the book, or are just fillers.

    Personally I do not like using fillers, and I also do not plan to write (when I get to it) to impress my readers with fancy words. What I haven’t figured out is how rich a vocabulry I should use. The obvious answer is to use only what is needed, but that is easier said than done.

    I am looking for is a way to find the optimal readability index, and a word index that reveals the frequency of words, for my targeted audience. I believe that way I’ll make faster progress.

    Eventually the question comes up whether we write to reflect excellence in a select group of readers, or write to make money.

    Am I on the right path or am I making this too complex?

    Herman
     
  13. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Computer grammar analysis programs cannot be relied upon. English is a context-sensitive grammar, and in fact it is often necessary to understand the meaning of each word as used in the sentence to even parse the sentence. It is theoretically possible to generate valid English sentences that correctly parse more than one way.

    You should study the rules of grammar instead, and recognize that there are many idiomatic exceptions that stretch the rules to the breaking point.

    So yes, you are making it too complex, and at the same time, a completely formal approach to the language is even more complex than you can imagine.

    With respect to vocabulary alone, it is far better to master a smaller vocabulary than to "sort of know" a much larger vocabulary. Simple, direct writing is underrated.
     

Share This Page