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  1. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Senior Member

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    cancer had made her smile faint

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by alpacinoutd, Nov 11, 2020.

    Hello all.

    I'm trying to describe a situation when a woman is dying of cancer. Is it correct to say cancer made her smile "faint"?

    What do you think about this?

    She was bedridden at the hospital in the final days. The hours dragged. Cancer had made her sweet smile faint. It reminded her that her smile can't last forever, that all her smiles will have become meaningless soon. It will all end. She wanted to go to Jon Bon Jovi's concert but knew it would never happen. Her estranged son called her one time but it was really awkward.


    How would you express what cancer does to a person? Do you think smile is a cliche?
     
  2. Partridge

    Partridge Senior Member

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    When visiting my Auntie who died of Cancer last year, the word which came to mind to describe her was "husk".
    It hollows people out.
     
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  3. Malum

    Malum Offline Supporter

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    Maybe something along the lines of bittersweet? A sort of nostalgic, knowingly possible farewell in how the smile is expressed. How I recollect it as being. You should probably take into account patients at such a stage being pumped with Morphine, too, given flashbacks of hospice visits...
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2020
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  4. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah it sounds fine.
    No more than the words "walk" or "speak" or "shoulder" are cliches.
     
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  5. DriedPen

    DriedPen Member

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    Cancer....YUCK...I on my 3rd round of it, but haven't died yet, so I got some thoughts on the topic.

    Cancer can be summed up in one word: FATIGUE

    Even when at rest, as your body tries to fight those rogue cells, so it consumes 3 times the energy that a body normally would. It really zaps your strength. I would not use the word faint myself, but rather "wilt". It expresses near death, but not quite there yet...

    She was bedridden at the hospital in the final days. The hours dragged. Cancer had made her sweet smile wilt. It reminded her that her smile can't last forever, that all her smiles will have become meaningless soon. It will all end. She wanted to go to Jon Bon Jovi's concert but knew it would never happen. Her estranged son called her one time but it was really awkward.
     
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  6. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Senior Member

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    Hopefully, you will defeat it again. That you have done it twice before is admirable.

    What if I want to go in another direction? I'd like to have the option.

    What do you think about this?

    Emily was bedridden at the hospital for 3 months. She was in the fight of her life, an unequal battle against those rogue cells. She refused to give in. Cancer had failed in making her unceasing smile wilt. She would joke with the nurses and mess with her roommates (I'm not sure if people have roommates in this situation). "Are you still alive Jessica? You have nine lives!" she would say to the woman in the next bed.

     
  7. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    The trouble I have with "Cancer had made her sweet smile faint" is that faint can be misconstrued as being a verb rather than an adjective. Smiles don't faint. Try "fainter" instead. or "fade."
     
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  8. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    That's why it should be clear from context whether it's a verb or an adjective.
     
  9. B.E. Nugent

    B.E. Nugent Senior Member

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    I'd be more concerned about what the cancer was doing to her taste in music. Bon Jovi? Give her The Black Keys or anything more cool than that. About her smile, what about "she met me with her smile as warm as always but I could see it was no longer effortless. The cancer had taken the flesh from her bone and the light from her eyes and had now set root in the corners of her mouth'. Otherwise, faint works fine for me, no confusion as to whether verb or not in the context.
    Going the other root hints at denial to me. I think you can cover her resilience while still remarking on the impact. The impact of the disease must come through or why mention it at all?
     
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  10. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

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    Bon Jovi has some great songs.
     
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  11. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I didn't like the phrase 'made her smile faint.' I think largely because of what @JLT said. I think 'faint' is a good word to use in this context, but maybe reword the sentence, to make it clear that 'faint' is not a verb here (without having to step outside the story to think about it.) Maybe something like "Her faint smile ...something something something." Or think about exactly what the smile looked like, and describe that instead? Or, because we know your character has cancer, maybe leave the cancer out of the sentence altogether. We'll figure out that the cancer is responsible, if you just say, "Her smile was faint." The smile barely registered, etc. Weak. Lots of other ways to say this, really.

    There is also a bit of an issue with POV here. If we're in the dying woman's head for this scene, would she think of her previous smile as 'sweet?' I think she'd be more inclined to be thinking of the effort it causes her now, to smile at all, rather than what the smile itself actually looks like. Because, unless she's looking at herself in the mirror, she won't actually know, will she?
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2020
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  12. DriedPen

    DriedPen Member

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    For me, one of the bigger issues with cancer has been, how much it has robbed me. Its really what I can no longer do that has been insidious and hard to deal with. That has manifested itself as fatigue mostly.

    I have good days, and I have bad, but what better example to show that than in a patient that cannot smile. She wants to, but cancer stole that from her. But for goodness sakes, SHOW that. Show that physically she just cannot smile because her strength is zapped. Show the reader that she wants to smile, but has nothing left to smile about. And that is when we get into a compelling reason for suicide or euthanasia.

    And it is compelling.

    Veteran Suicides get all the press, but it is not as a high percentage as cancer patients.
     
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  13. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    So true. Chronic pain will do that to you. It's another form of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It's difficult for many people to see just how traumatic that stress can be. And as you pointed out, when you reach the end of any options for treatment, suicide can be a very logical path to take. I applaud the states that allow assisted suicide, so that these patients can have a graceful and quick ending to their trouble.
     
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  14. alpacinoutd

    alpacinoutd Senior Member

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    Wilt was suggested instead of faint which I think is nice.

    If the POV is third person omniscient, would this work?

    Cancer had failed in making her unceasing smile wilt.
     
  15. zaffy

    zaffy Active Member

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    If the paragraph is the dying woman's thoughts, then she would not refer to her smile as sweet. She may think 'I don't even have the energy to smile.' But people do not refer to their characteristics in that way. Such as 'My blue eyes filled with tears.' One would say, 'I blinked back the tears.' The paragraph isn't clear whose head we are in. The narrator and the protagonists pov seem to mingle together.

    This paragraph is by the narrator. His version of what he saw and felt. (example)
    Fearful, she lay there expressionless, no tears or laughter, not even a smile visitedd her sweet face in those final days. No food. No wine. Just a drip. We played music for her, turned up the speakers. Jon Bon Jovi screamed out. We'd bought tickets to see them long ago. They're still in the draw. Cancer took everything from her and left me with nothing.

    This paragraph is by the protagonist. How she feels. (example)
    I've not got long left, and I'm happy to go. Life is miserable, I've not laughed in weeks now, not even smiled. I used to smile all the time. I was a happy person until this hit me. People used to call me 'Smiler.' If I had the energy I'd smile about that. Smile about how happy I used to be.

    I would put the son seeing his mother in the next paragraph and develop it. Let us know how things were awkward rather than telling us the situation was really awkward. Did they hold hands? Did he say something and wished he hadn't? Did he make his mother cry? Had they fallen out before the illness and was he trying to make up but couldn't find the right words? Will the narrator describe it? Or the son? Or the mother?

    Your paragraph was thought provoking because it opened up many questions.
     
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  16. Shannon Davidson

    Shannon Davidson Member

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    I work in medicine and deal with people dying all the time. Rather than faint, maybe fade. That's what many do, they simply fade away. However, I'd say the smile was the one thing that didn't fade.

    In those last days, she was little more than a faded version of the woman I once knew. Her body was so frail. The disease had ravaged a titan, a woman who had survived two wars, the death of those closest to her, and the child she had lost. She suffered terribly now, yet not even the specter of death could tear away her sweet, loving smile when she saw me enter the room.
     
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  17. GribbleGrunger

    GribbleGrunger Member

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    'Cancer had made her smile faint'

    It sounds a little awkward to be honest. I think it's the 'made her' part. I don't think the idea is wrong though. Maybe reverse the idea?

    'Cancer stole the strength from her smile'

    Which is more tragic because now we know she once had a strong smile.






     
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  18. Shannon Davidson

    Shannon Davidson Member

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    The cancer had left even her smile withered and faint.
     
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  19. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    ^ I like Shannon's versions the best(both of them), because cancer causes far more profound changes than just to a person's smile. Focusing on just her smile is like saying "The hurricane smudged the front door" and ignoring the smashed walls and missing roof.
     
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  20. GribbleGrunger

    GribbleGrunger Member

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    She lay there as insubstantial as gossamer, lips mere flakes of the red once there, her smile a frail impostor
     
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  21. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Unless you're talking about the first visible sign of the cancer? A fading smile might be the early warning before the real devastation begins to set in.
     

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