1. Scarecrow
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    Scarecrow Member

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    Word Choice Help

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Scarecrow, Mar 17, 2011.

    "Betwixt my unpropitious self and that last vestige of my goal, ghastly figures whose malefic forms bespoke a memory that was once human, meandered about, whispering dim secrets to each other, the meanings of which I was unable to ascertain."


    I need a word that unpropitious that fits with the rest of the theme here. Can't think/find of one that fits. As of this point the narrator has been crawling up a stair for three cycles of eternity (however long that is). Need something that describes how he would feel/look at the end of it.

    Thanks
     
  2. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you really are trying to impersonate the worst excesses of a late 19th-century Z-list author (your choice) you might as well stick with "unpropitious".
     
  3. Scarecrow
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    Scarecrow Member

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    don't know what you mean by Z-list, but I'll assume it's nothing good. ah, well.
     
  4. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Essentially, I think the attempt at "Wardour Street English" is rather overdone. It might work in parody but I can't imagine a reader putting up with much of it. Sorry I'm not helping much with a replacement word, but I think that's not the real issue here.
     
  5. Scarecrow
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    Scarecrow Member

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    Then why bother posting anything? Not that I'm closed to critiques. The piece just came out of one. But since what you said is not even the slightest bit helpful I'm wondering what the point was.
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I intended it to be helpful -- to suggest that you were looking at the wrong thing.
     
  7. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    inauspicious?
     
  8. Ion
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    Ion Senior Member

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    Unpropitious, betwixt, vestige, malefic, ascertain... all those words go together just fine if that's really the feel you're trying to going for. I would be careful if I were you, though. Using that many high visibility words in such close proximity tends to desensitize the reader to anything you say. If they don't end up skimming over it outright, you'll never be able to convince them that anything in your writing is exceptional in any way.
     
  9. Scarecrow
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    Scarecrow Member

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    That's what the main criticism & praise in the in-class critique for the piece. Some people got strung up on the words, others did not. But over all it went over well. If I try to publish this, which I think I will. I'm going to need to go through and "dumb down" some of the language. But the rest of the piece is not this convoluted.

    Though, in the end, I think "inauspicious" works better than "unpropitious."

    Thanks for all the feedback.
     
  10. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Other people here have had issues with people needing them to "dumb it down" to use your words, and I would say it depends on who you are marketing to. Just because it may or may not be college level does not mean it is too wordy to get published, it just means you have to find an agent and a publisher who handles that type of work. It may take you longer, your path may be different, but don't change your style just because some people don't get you. Just my two cents.
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't want to seem harsh, but you need to adopt a less self-congratulatory attitude IMHO.

    For example, you don't need to 'dumb down' the language, just use it correctly and unambiguously, e.g. 'dim' means either something like badly lit or stupid, so this bit amuses me.

    I can't understand at all why you thought 'unpropitious' was a suitable word--it seems there just as a hollow attempt to impress. It's like a physical and ugly attack with a thesaurus. The correct thing to do is to leave it out entirely.

    The sentence structure is also weird and the sentences are way too long. You are separating the do-er and the action too much. For example, you should keep:
    ...ghastly figures whose malefic forms
    and ....meandered about
    together.

    I say these things not to wound, but to encourage you to use plain and correct English.

    Take care.
     
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  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Inauspicious works better in the sentence I guess - this is the problem with both words are you trying to portray unlucky or dislike of himself? Like Madhoca it isn't the word choice that is the issue - I don't need things dumbed down to understand them however a lot of pedantic, grandiose, verbose type language has a lot of ambiguity unless you ground the words firmly in the sentence you are using them in.

    You haven't done that with unpropitious.
     
  13. Ion
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    Ion Senior Member

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    This is true.

    Sometimes people don't understand the humor in my writing, and tell me to explain it. The problem is the humor comes from it not being explained.

    Whenever I get a critique though, no matter how much I disagree with it, I always listen to it. If after considering it carefully I find that it doesn't apply to me, then I choose to forgo it.

    Personally, I just don't like complicated language when simpler language works just as well. Some people I'm sure appreciate that kind of thing, but it's just not for me. Do whatever works for you and the audience you're writing for.
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It was because of that possibility that I acknowledged that it could work in parody. We can't tell without the context, although I think many of us are agreed that the rewards would be unlikely to match the effort if much of the style was like that.
     
  15. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    This is my philosophy as well. If I use big or unusual words, it's because they convery nuances and shades of meaning that I specifically want to express, or, sometimes, because they flow significantly better than any alternatives. In my opinion, other uses tend to lean towards pretention.

    Edit: Swing and a miss; apparently, the noun form of pretentious is pretentiousness.
     
  16. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    Unprofitious, never heard of it. Sounds like Mammamamamamaia's wicked word of the week. Word accepts it but offers no alternative. Thesaurus suggests unfavourable. Why would the narrator call himself this? You ask how the narrator would describe himself? If I had been climbing stairs for any time longer than three seconds, I would call myself knackered.
     
  17. Scarecrow
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    Scarecrow Member

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    Again thank you all for your comments. As far as critiques go, I do listen to them, I am very attentive to them and enjoy getting them. But when critiques are not what I am looking for, especially when they are based off of one sentence out of a 10 page manuscript I find them a bit lacking in credibility. Yes there are edits to the sentence structure that could be improved upon and those will be taken into consideration and changed if I find them useful (as in madhoca's example).

    That sentence itself found nothing but praise (minus that one WC correction) from the class in which the story was critiqued and from the professor as well. So in the greater context of the story it works but taken by itself I can see how it would be overwhelming. Which is why I did not ask for a critique. And forgive the "self-congratulatory attitude" but that this didn't flop as I was almost expecting it to but got quite the opposite reaction I have to be a bit proud.

    As the style is turn of the century, plain, modern English would not work nor convey the right kind of imagery and tone. And I understand that my choice of words can be distracting– though nowhere else in the story do they appear in such quick succession as they do in this sentence– but since altering them would change the style and tone completely I will not be altering all of them, maybe none of them ("Betwixt" on the other hand has already been changed to straight "between"). So please if there aren't direct questions or suggestions to what I was asking then lets drop the subject. Thanks.

    @Elgaisma & Zaffy: More unlucky than dislike for himself. I want to convey something close to exhausted, disheartened (so in that case dispirited might work), ragged, disappointment; that feeling when you finally find what you're longing for only to discover that it is nothing close to want to expected nor wanted.

    After that I'll give dispirited a try.
     
  18. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    Sometimes, a single sentence out of a 10-page manuscript can turn a reader off or alienate him. Often, the critiques we need to listen to the most are those which we aren't looking for and don't want to hear. If you say you're going to listen to criticism, then actually do so instead of immediately dismissing it. Believe it or not, your professor and your classmates, however good they are, are not the gold standard of literature. Disagree with us all you want, it's your story, you have every right to do whatever you want with it; just don't call our comments uncredible just because they aren't what you want to hear.

    By the way, the comma after "human" in your original sentence is unnecessary. I just figured out that it's why I kept having to reread your sentence to make sense of it.
     
  19. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    Sometimes, a single sentence out of a 10-page manuscript can turn a reader off or alienate him. Often, the critiques we need to listen to the most are those which we aren't looking for and don't want to hear. If you say you're going to listen to criticism, then actually do so instead of immediately dismissing it. Believe it or not, your professor and your classmates, however good they are, are not the gold standard of literature. Disagree with us all you want, it's your story, you have every right to do whatever you want with it; just don't say our comments lack credibility just because they aren't what you want to hear.

    By the way, the comma after "human" in your original sentence is unnecessary. I just figured out that it's why I kept having to reread your sentence to make sense of it.
     
  20. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dispirited is going to look like a joke next to your ghastly figures. This is what I mean - grandiose, verbose language can be fine but it needs context and grounding in the paragraph. It needs practice which you are doing to be able to use it well. Unpropitous and dispirited in the that passage make you look like you don't understand the meaning of the word or the words around it. In my experience someone who really understands the more difficult words in our language can use them in such a way you don't need to run to a dictionary for the meaning as it is there in the text. The people that read them and like them tend to be those who want to look intelligent and educated. Rather the ones who really are.

    Melancholic, despondant, dejected would work with the meaning you have given and start to the given the paragraph the context it needs to start making sense.
     
  21. ThorneApple
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    ThorneApple New Member

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    The language is fine, but not common. No need to change it, if the only reason for change is to make it more like everything else everyone else everywhere else has already read. Cloning should be reserved for sheep, only.

    At any rate, If you read it aloud, the overall rhythm to the words do get a bit hung up on 'unpropitious.' Too many syllables? Or wrong accent?
    Not sure - a poet or musician might be able to figure that part out.

    I just tried 'ill-favoured' in its place, and the sentence read a bit more smoothly.
    Good luck on your project.
     
  22. amydyslex
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    amydyslex New Member

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    Check if antagonistic, adverse and inimical would help. But I would like to suggest that do "dumb down" the sentence a bit as too many deep words are kid of ruining the beauty of the main idea.
     

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