By peachalulu on Apr 15, 2014 at 7:15 PM
  1. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada


    Discussion in 'Articles' started by peachalulu, Apr 15, 2014.

    A word is so much more than a label for its object or idea.

    An actual object is unbending but when it becomes a word the possibilities of bending the perception, concept, and reality of it are endless.

    Take a simple thing like licorice. To hold it in your hand it can’t be anything but licorice under a generalization of Food or Candy. However when it becomes a word it can be a scent, a texture, a visual aid ( shoes shiny as oiled licorice ), a taste, a plant, a color, and even a place - a licorice factory. The licorice doesn’t even have to be present it merely becomes concept.

    Once this is realized, you can triple your vocabulary without ever having added one word. And you can include any word even an obscure one like abacus.

    Now, one could dismiss it because there is no practical way for an abacus to fit in their story. But that’s when the writer is thinking of an actual abacus. Given its shape it can lead to a comparison, maybe a way to describe a room divider. I.e. She had a retro room divider resembling a giant abacus. Or a metaphor - He was figuring things out in his head. This could take a while, like a monkey with a broken abacus.

    Try it out. It doesn't have to be perfect. Practice makes it better. Take a word like spittoon. You may not be writing a western but that doesn’t mean it can’t make an appearance. i.e. Rachel scowled. The man belonged to the spittoon and bar fight era when women weren’t women they were little ladies.

    Go beyond first impressions of words. Turn them around and see all the angles, all the possibilities.

    Take a chance.

    All words have a history with people like names and scents. Say the name Rupert and most people might think of the husky-voiced actor in Harry Potter, I’m thinking of the bear in yellow check slacks. Take the word ruby - brainstorm it, to go beyond your initial history into ideas - a gem, a birthstone, Dorothy’s slippers, the color of wet blood, a pulled apart pomegranate looks like clusters of rubies. Once you can springboard from the ordinary and see all angles the word ruby ( or any word for that matter ) can make connections to things never before thought of, it ceases to remain in its rigid form. They can appear in any setting and flourish any mood. Nouns have the possibility to become verbs, and verbs to nouns, and nouns to adjectives.

    When you want to add to your vocabulary, go for it.

    You don’t have to join word-a-day sites ( but you can if you want ) or scour the dictionary or thesaurus to learn new words ( but again, you can if you want. ) Just keep absorbing words from a variety of sources - Non-fiction, articles, reference, guide books, ads, comics, music.

    What are you looking for?

    Do you want precision?

    Visual & reverse dictionaries will help you discover precise names such as finial ( the decorative tip of a spire. )Or gluteus maximus (a thigh muscle) or drupelet ( the little nobs of a raspberry. )

    How about ready made ideas & terms ?

    Word Guides offer lists of words - such as glitter rock, bosa nova, bubblegum under the heading of Popular Music.

    Need something modern or old school?

    Slang books will offer current or dated doozies like - voom-voom, dollink, and cutems ( for sweetheart. )

    Something unique?
    Reference books will offer flowers you might never have thought of like boneworts, broomrape, or star-thistle.

    Need something relatable?
    Magazines will offer modern brandnames, and current catch phrases.

    Want to be inventive? - Poetry will flip meanings and invent words - The moon makes frosty red moonburn ( this is from Al Purdy’s The Double Shadow )

    Want to learn how to develop rhythm and deliver a punch? Try music - Mama, just killed a man. Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger now he’s dead ( Bohemian Rhapsody - Freddie Mercury )

    Now, how about inspiration?

    Photos & Art can also fire up your vocabulary by stirring your imagination. I have no doubt that William Sleator was influenced by M.C. Escher when he wrote The House of Stairs. Even Harlan Ellison created a series of stories based off paintings by Yerka. But even a plain photo of an object or place can help you create good descriptions, as you have a reference to work with.

    Learn to absorb input from your five senses. Take note of sounds, textures, tastes, scents, sights. Make movie night do double duty - note the glass like clink of bangle bracelets on actresses, and strategic stray hairs, or body language. The more you take time to note these things - the more seamlessly your character will notice them. Practice will reward you with cleaner observations, better flow and the right word.

    Whether or not you add words to your vocabulary isn’t as important as developing an appreciation for words and learning how to use what’s already ingrained. It’s about developing your own eye and seeing something in a word that no one else does.
    Last edited: May 11, 2014


Discussion in 'Articles' started by peachalulu, Apr 15, 2014.

    1. GingerCoffee
      This is a skill I particularly need to work on. I keep the Thesaurus tab open on my computer when I'm writing. But that often isn't enough.
      BeckyJean likes this.
    2. 123456789
      This is wonderful, Peach. My one caveat would be to consider the POV first. If your MC is a boy who grew up on a space station, using words with connotations related to birds (unless he wonders about them) might not make the most sense.
      sylvertech, Thornesque and peachalulu like this.
    3. peachalulu
      Excellent point 123!
    4. Mackers
      A very insightful article Peach...I'm impressed!
    5. peachalulu
      Thanks, Mackers. I had something stewing for a while in a folder, and decided to polish it up a bit. Occasionally someone asks about vocabulary on the site which got me to thinking about what I do to improve my vocabulary. Most of the time my articles seem slanted to writing I like - but I think occasionally someone might get a little something from them, no matter their style. I think that's the trick with articles even one line might jog something.
    6. 123456789
      can you name a specific visual dictionary? all the ones im seeing are for children and foreigners
    7. Mackers
      I like how you've demonstrated how a single word can have such a variety of connotations, depending on a simple stretch of the imagination.

      Building your vocabulary takes ages, done over the course of your entire reading life even. Sometimes when I'm reading a novel I'm too lazy to check the dictionary to look up a word I don't know...I hate the way it breaks up the flow of your reading, but I should probably do something to rectify that! lol
      BeckyJean likes this.
    8. peachalulu
      123 - I think mine is the Merriam-Webster Visual - but I think mine's older from the 80's?, I bought it at a thrift store. I think there's one online. And there's also a pile of visual dictionaries at open library to browse. But a lot are specifics though - dinosaur, the body ( which would actually be cool ), children's. If you've got a good used bookstore nearby that's the place I'd check out - or thrift stores they can occasionally have something cool for dirt cheap.

      Mackers - Same here - especially if I can get the gist of the word or sentence but just yesterday I had to look one up - limn - to paint draw, or illuminate. Love it - glad I looked it up as I almost thought it was a misprint of lime - lol.
      BeckyJean likes this.
    9. jannert
      I like the idea of taking a word and seeing how much you can do with it, to find ways to stretch it beyond its original meaning. That's something I could certainly do to improve my writing. I've got a big vocabulary, but I'm not very imaginative when I use it.

      Maybe that's the difference between being a storyteller and being a creative writer?
      BeckyJean and peachalulu like this.
    10. 123456789
      @jannert that sounds more like the difference between being a reader and being a creative writer.
      BeckyJean and peachalulu like this.
    11. 123456789
      peach whats your favorite thesaurus?
    12. peachalulu
      Actually, the one I downloaded on my computer years ago. It's Webster's New World Dictionary & Thesaurus. It automatically opens when I start my computer and anytime I want to look something up it's always there. I love it for it's convenience. Don't know if it's still available.

      But if I was to pick an actual book it would be The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale. This book is huge and wonderful.
    13. jazzabel
      Wonderful article @peachalulu I really enjoyed reading it :)
      peachalulu likes this.
    14. caters
      When you see a list of synonyms and antonyms how do you know which is best to use?

      Also most words have multiple meanings. For example pregnant can mean you have an unborn baby or it can mean big like in "pregnant idea"
      peachalulu likes this.
    15. Mercissa
      Well said! Thanks for sharing! :)
    16. peachalulu
      Didn't notice your question before Caters - Never think of synonyms as being interchangeable. Use instinct but also look up words to understand their various shadings - it's like walk vs stroll vs strut vs stride.

      Each one appears to have subtle difference but they can actually drastically change the way the reader takes the characters mood and the scene. Take for instance - a simple sentence like Mike walked up to the zombie with an ax - once you change it to strut or stroll - the reader's perception has completely changed - Stroll makes him sound too confident ( he's not taking this seriously ), strut makes him sound cocky and show-offy and stride - makes him sound brisk wanting to get this killing over with. The best one to use is the one whose shade of meaning best suits your over-all scene and the characters mood or action.
      cutecat22 likes this.
    17. hansraj
      a very insightful helpful article
    18. Bumfoot
      What a great exercise! Thank you for sharing! I've always loved words (and dictionaries) and your article is enlightening...I'll be reading with new glasses :)
      peachalulu likes this.
    19. graphicsmyway
      very enlightening article
    20. Francis Isugu
      Francis Isugu
      I like to know about how you are really going about writing your new story about the man and woman on a planet like ours, may be I can learn from you.
    21. peachalulu
      Hi, Francis
      Not to sure what project you mean. I'm working on several right now. But if you want some advice on your project - post something ( when you can ) and let me now and I'll check it out and offer any advice I can!
    22. caters
      he is talking about my New Earth project
      peachalulu likes this.
    23. peachalulu
      Good to know. Thanks Caters, I was a bit confused - lol!
    24. Hwaigon
      Nice points here.
      I have to admit I myself took a decent detour to their discovery, despite having had various linguistics/semantics/morphology/syntax courses at university. Only now does it dawn on me what these concepts
      are in principle, how to play with them, how to master them, how to become inventive with words in speech or written discourse. As you say, adopting the views you presented, one's expressive possibilities become limitless.

      Really liked this article, not merely for the fact that I, a foreigner to English language, have discovered the same.
      Last edited: Jul 23, 2014
      Delise and peachalulu like this.

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