Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by aguywhotypes, Aug 1, 2013.
Read a thesaurus or some other means?
What do you mean by picturesque? Better imagery? Higher register language? I'm not sure where your question is going?
Definitely not read a thesauraus. I can say that even while I'm not quite sure what you mean, because reading a thesaurus is pretty much a bad way to improve any writing skill.
But all the same, what do you mean?
Yeah, I'm with these two. Your original post is very cryptic. Can you make your needs more specific? Have you got any examples that you think should be improved in some way?
The first step in expanding your writing in a certain area is reading. Which writers are writing in the way you mean? Absorb as many of their books as you can, read at least twenty, going for a good variety. This will automatically give you a better 'feel' for this type of writing.
You could try listening- really listening- to the real thing.
It's not eavesdropping; it's research!
If your use of "picturesque" was your way of making your language more... er, picturesque, then it sounds like making anything picturesque is not your problem. Worry more about clarity, rather than being "picturesque". Elaborate language is all just meaningless noise if no one can understand what you actually mean. And reading a thesaurus, judging from how you phrased your question in the first place, will likely make your problem worse, not better.
amen to that, cf!
much of the worst writing i have to deal with as a mentor and editor suffers from that very practice... using fancy words snatched from a thesaurus and used in the wrong way/context by folks who think because it's there with a word they know, that it means the same thing and can be used interchangably... which it too often does not ...
unless the user with a less than expansive vocabulary checks the words out in the dictionary and googles for proper usage examples by widely-accepted excellent writers before using them, the results can range from disastrous to hilariously hopeless...
which is why i tell all beginning writers and those with limited vocabularies to lock up their thesaurus till they don't need one...
I'm not sure what you mean by picturesque dialogue, and I'm not sure that I would want to read it. How about dialogue that is:
Well-crafted (timing, placement, meaning)
Well, my dictionary says:
unusual and vivid : his picturesque speech contrasted with his rough appearance.
Voilla, [MENTION=55179]Steve Day[/MENTION]
Still, how to write it such? That is what I was getting after.
Make everything you say 1000 words long. I'm told that's the going rate.
Well, in the context of fiction writing, I should think the term 'picturesque dialog' would suggest dialog which is vivid and creates character images, manner, attitude through speech. (Well-crafted" is kind of vague in this context.) Picturesque dialog should help to develop the characters, advance the story, and help to establish the scene through other than narrative.
And to answer the question, go back to high school or college writing classes and let's do some homework. Go sit somewhere people gather - a mall - especially the food court, a park, a sporting event, or concert, etc. Then, listen. That's all. Just listen. Take in HOW people say things as much or more than WHAT they are saying. Check body language AS they speak. That's the first part of the "assignment".
Next. Determine just what messages you need to convey in a particular scene or exchange. Is it an argument? A kiss'n'makeup? A encounter between friends? Enemies? In other words, HOW does this dialog relate to the story overall? WHAT does it do FOR the story? Does it help to advance the primary thread? Does it help to develop the characters?
Okay. So once you've gotten past that point, you now have WHY you are having this dialog and HOW it is going to appear on the page and, hopefully, in the reader's mind. You have also determined WHAT that dialog is going to accomplish within the story.
Ideally, 'good' dialog is going to incorporate a bit of action and a little description along with the verbal exchange between characters. And you want to be careful to mix up your passages of dialog both in how they are presented (using attributions/not using attributions, adding descriptive/narrative passages, etc.) and the pacing of the dialog (particularly within scenes conveying action).
I don't think there is anybody who hasn't heard the old adage, "Practice makes perfect". Well, my MA master always said that was incorrect. He insisted, rather, "Practice makes permanent". The point in a broader context than martial arts, is that if you are doing it wrong and you keep doing it wrong, you are going to imprint that manner, style, habit on how you do a particular thing. It will become an embedded habit, making it more and more difficult to change that habit. HOWEVER, if you continue to try to improve an action, to learn more about how to do something, and continue to actively work to make it better, the very effort will help you to discover what is or is not working and ways to make it better. I know that sounds a bit like a cop-out but, the truth is, doing it right is not as simple as just doing this and this and that. It is a progressive journey to find the way that works best for you in any given work.
For those who have been doing this for some time, it may seem like a simple task, but even many who have been writing for years struggle to achieve bright, energetic, and effective dialog that can do more than merely fill a page. And, some of them, sadly, feel that, since they have "made it", they no longer need to work on improving those skills. So, in that respect, typer type guy, you are way ahead. Good luck.
mm.. not sure how else to explain it..
I want to write free verse poetry and I need more colorful words.. (no, not foul language) I mean more, well picturesque speech.. I write and then try a simile or a metaphor and just draw a blank..
how else to explain it.. I need to become more familiar with more words.. I know that sound silly.. maybe I need to read a dictionary.. or just read lots of good poetry.
I have recently read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet and the language was beautiful. I am also currently reading Among the Missing by Morag Joss and the language is equally captivating. Cloud Atlas also contained beautiful language. Perhaps reading these will help.
Do this first, don't start with the dictionary, as others said. It's better to use the dictionary to look for specific words after you've seen them in context in a (good) work of literature. Just opening a dictionary in a random page to absorb whatever words appear won't really teach you how to use them effectively in creative writing, especially for metaphors and the like and not just a sterile description of something. That method also makes it harder to memorize those new words, anyway.
Read. And listen to songs. Songs can put across in a line what books can in a paragraph, and they often do it more poetically, as well. If you're into learning 'picturesque' language, then some picturesque language is a good place to start. And that's more often found in songs than in books.
I'd say the best way to create vivid writing is to avoid patterns in writing that have been done before. Avoid the metaphors and smilies everyone else uses. Reject cliches. Never go with the first sentence pattern that comes to mind. And when you find an author whose prose you like, don't just read, STUDY. Find out why you like it. Compare them to other authors you don't like. Find the way they use parts and speech and the type of words they favor. Art is both creativity and a study of other art. Don't be afraid to use your brain alongside your heart!
I would strongly recommend songs by Bob Dylan, particularly "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands", "Desolation Row", "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues", "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" and "I Want You".
If you want to write poetry, you should read lots of poetry. I've recently discovered a collection of poems from the Modernismo school - translated into English. Wonderful imagery. Probably much better in the original Spanish.
both... you can't become a good writer without having a better than most vocabulary and being a constant reader of the best examples of what you want to write...
it does sound like your main problem is you're lacking in the vocabulary department... the best way to increase one's vocabulary is to keep a dictionary handy wherever you sit for any period of time and 'browse' it...
plus, do the ny [or london] times daily crossword till you can complete one in under 30 minutes in ink... the graduate to the sunday version [you can get book collections of them so you can do this on a daily basis]... by the time you can do the sundays in under 30 minutes in ink, your vocabulary will have grown significantly...
"by the time you can do the sundays in under 30 minutes in ink, your vocabulary will have grown significantly."
-and then attempt the double acrossticks and learn just how much more reading you have ahead. . .
First of all, free verse/poetry does not usually entail dialog. Dialog is a give and take exchange of words between/among people. A conversation.
So, what you are looking for is more picturesque speech. More colorful/expressive/evocative word choices.
In that vein, yes, reading more good poetry can help. But what you really want is to find your own words to help you express your ideas.
Here's one good exercise: keep a pen and notebook handy - yes, a real dead tree notebook. Write about what you see around you. Then do it again in another way, using different words, different perspective. Then do it again to another image that catches. It doesn't have to be anything as poetically 'purple' as a full-color sunset or a shooting star or some peaceful pastoral scene. It can be something as pedestrian as people crossing the street or a dog pissing on a lamppost. Maybe it's kids out in the park or the fat guy and his friend playing tennis in the park or jogging, red-faced and emphysemic. Just take the things that catch your eye and write a few sentences about them. Then find new and different ways to tell the same scene. (This is a great exercise for fiction writing as well, btw)
What you are looking for is your own voice in your poetry, not a way to mimic another poet's voice. You're looking for YOUR words. And, manipulating how you describe your world will help you to find the right ones.
I look for interesting Pinterest images and try to describe them.
yes... that's the next step after ny times sunday crosswords... i do the several of the hardest acrostics i can find every day... those and the ny times sundays are my brain 'exercise'... just as athletes need to keep the body well-tuned, writers need to keep the brain in shape...
A few singers/bands I could recommend if you go down the 'listening to songs' route: Brian Fallon, Counting Crows, Bob Dylan, and Meatloaf.
Separate names with a comma.