Tags:
  1. cherrya

    cherrya Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2013
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    61

    I'm having difficulty with this sentence

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by cherrya, Apr 27, 2017.

    I mean to say that this character likes danger, but I refuse to say : "James liked danger."

    The problem is, it still sounds like the most logical sentence to me! I mean it to say that he is drawn to it, rather than he likes it, which is what's making it harder, and I don't like "James was drawn to danger." It sounds too... unimpressive? I don't know... I thought about writing a longer sentence that explains it, but the pace of this specific paragraph is fast and straightforward.

    Or how about : "James was drawn to danger like moths to a flame"? What do you think of that?

    It's meant to make the reader go "Oh! He's interesting, I want to know more about him!" without sounding like I'm trying too hard to convince them.

    I know part of being a writer means finding different ways of dealing with that sort of thing on your own, but I'm having so much difficulty with this one! Maybe I'm just tired and finals are finally getting to me haha!

    (To give more details if anyone is interested, I don't mean 'fun' danger like ordering seafood at a sketchy restaurant instead of pasta, I mean doing things just to see what happens, getting into life-threatening situations out of pure curiosity and because you can, stuff like that... That's why "likes danger" doesn't work, because it makes it sound like he's just a guy who'd consider bungee jumping after college haha)
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2017
  2. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Messages:
    174
    Likes Received:
    117
    Location:
    Germany
    I think it depends on the style of your writing in general.
    Actually, both "James liked danger" and "James was drawn to danger like moths to a flame" could work in the right context.

    The first one is elegant in its simplicity. Would work for a story that describes the gritty reality of our world.

    The second one sounds a bit exaggerated, as if said slightly tongue-in-cheek. Would work for a text that uses irony a lot.

    "James was drawn to danger" is similar to "James liked" danger in style, but yes, it has another content. More like an uncontrollable urge than a voluntary decision.

    But of course, I'm not a native english speaker, so take my words with a grain of salt.
     
    Fernando.C and cherrya like this.
  3. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,385
    Likes Received:
    26,225
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    James likes to be in the thick of it.

    Boy that James sure enjoys finding trouble.
     
  4. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    23,743
    Likes Received:
    20,543
    Location:
    El Tembloroso Caribe
    You can go lot's of directions:
    • James was wholly unfamiliar with the idea of caution. (tell)
    • As a child, a pair of scissors and a slippery roof was James' idea of fun. Still is. (show)
    • James' mother still had nightmares regarding his boyhood antics. (show)
    Try to show his tendencies rather than just tell us.
     
  5. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    6,494
    Likes Received:
    12,791
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    If you really want the reader to be interested in James you'll probably do better if you show it. No matter how you phrase that sentence it's still a straight tell about an important character trait. Not that you can't do that here or there, but that's one of those things you should probably be showing.
     
    jannert likes this.
  6. cherrya

    cherrya Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2013
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    61
    Right, I probably should have mentioned that I've done that. The first paragraphs before this sentence are about how he was always drawn to dangerous things when he was a kid (without ever mentioning the word 'danger' and that it used to scare him, but now he chose to embrace it and allow it to become a part of who he is. The sentence goes right after that one, like I'm summering it up, like :

    "It (Danger) was no less a part of him than blablablabla. James was always drawn to danger, and something something. (end of the first introduction). Then we jump straight into the present.

    I want it to be told straightforward because I want it to be a bit shocking, and I also want the reader to remember. I want it to be clear, I don't want them to guess, since it's one of his biggest motivations and explains why he is the way he is. That way I'll never have to say it again, and they won't think about it specifically, but it'll always be at the back of their minds.

    Sorry if that doesn't make any sense, I'm not only tired but french which is equally terrible hahaha! Ah...
     
  7. cherrya

    cherrya Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2013
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    61
    Maybe drawn could work... It feels so lazy but I guess sometimes that's how it is.
     
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,345
    Likes Received:
    13,069
    James was a danger addict, and today he was in withdrawal.

    Others:
    James craved danger.
    Danger had always been James' best friend.
    As a child, James was briefly obsessed with roller coasters. But when he realized that the train was never going to fall off the track, the love affair was over.
     
    truthbeckons, jannert and Shadowfax like this.
  9. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Messages:
    775
    Likes Received:
    1,503
    Do an antimetabole. You just reverse it all. It keeps it very simple and emphasizes your point:

    James liked danger. Danger liked James.​

    You could boost the action if you needed. It can be stated a zillion ways:

    James thrived on danger. Danger thrived on James.​

    Crazy Greeks thought of everything.
     
    QueenOfPlants likes this.
  10. GB reader

    GB reader Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Messages:
    503
    Likes Received:
    542
    Location:
    Uppsala, Sweden
    So i just learned a new word, antimetabole.

    I was thinking of found.

    Danger always/usually/often/easily found James.
     
  11. truthbeckons

    truthbeckons Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2017
    Messages:
    150
    Likes Received:
    159
    Location:
    Australia
    I like @Seven Crowns's 'James thrived on danger', since thriving on something has more of a visceral impact than 'liking' or even being 'drawn to' it. I think that's what you want if you're going to be direct.

    But for the love of Dickens, avoid cliches like 'drawn like a moth to a flame'.

    Cliches that ubiquitous sound much duller than they have any right to. Offer the reader a comparison they haven't already heard loads of times; any original comparison you can come up with would be much more interesting:

    'He chased danger like a dog after a squirrel.'
    'Danger roped him in like a huckster.'
    'Danger sent a thrill through James like a spark from a plug.'
    'He couldn't resist the siren's call of danger.'
    'A hint of danger hooked James like a thumb in his belt loop.'

    Nothing Shakespearean off the top of my head, but I promise that if you take a little time to think of things which attract/pull/pursue/etc., you can at least do better than tired old moths and flames.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2017
    Seven Crowns likes this.
  12. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2015
    Messages:
    742
    Likes Received:
    682
    Location:
    USA
    If you say he's drawn to it but doesn't necessarily like it, the word "compelled/compulsion" is the first thing that comes to my mind. Or something to the "he knows better but does it anyway" effect.
     
    cherrya likes this.
  13. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2017
    Messages:
    1,126
    Likes Received:
    935
    Location:
    San Diego
    The Moth to a flame might be a little trite, but I too struggle with clichés in a modern setting.
    Maybe: James' aura spoke danger. No that's no good. I think I like: He thrived on danger.
    It would have to be a tongue in cheek description of James, otherwise we would have deduced it by the description of the character.
     
  14. truthbeckons

    truthbeckons Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2017
    Messages:
    150
    Likes Received:
    159
    Location:
    Australia
    I think the basic problem with 'moth to a flame', apart from the fact that cliches are bland by their nature, is that it's one of those figurative ideas that has less bearing on modern life. The image suggests the time and place to which it belongs, so it confuses the tone and setting.

    Figurative language can do more than one thing (describe a character), it should also fit the specific world that the characters live in. The image itself can reflect character. So from my examples, I'd think about the (not terribly original, but still much less over-used) 'spark from a plug' if James was a physical/kinaesthetic-intelligence type who likes messing around with things like mechanics, etc. A 'hooked thumb in a belt loop' would suggest a flirty, social kind of context, especially if James is an outgoing/'try anything once' type.

    When the images themselves suggest what the characters are like and/or what kind of stuff makes up their lives, the writing gets out of the straight 'telling' territory and starts to also 'show' things in the best sense of 'showing'.

    So as a general rule, if a cliche occurs to me when I'm writing but Googling the full line in quotes would yield thousands or hundreds of thousands of results (inputting "like a moth to a flame" yields 399,000+), I just take that as a hint that I can fit in some figurative language there (which can be tricky to find the right place for, especially in a casual contemporary genre/style) and try to come up with my own metaphor/simile based on the context.
     
  15. Tea@3

    Tea@3 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2015
    Messages:
    442
    Likes Received:
    289
    Location:
    USA
    I edited my point because I see it goes against your desire. I think you are wrestling with the style element instead of the content.

    Best wishes.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2017
    Thomas Babel likes this.
  16. Thomas Babel

    Thomas Babel Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2017
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    31
    Yeah, if I were you I'd turn that one statement into, like, its own scene - without ever actually saying it. Gives you lots of opportunities for strong character (and inter-relationship) building.
     
  17. Thomas Babel

    Thomas Babel Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2017
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    31
    If you do go with making it a statement, I'd not go with the moth-to-the-flame thing unless I wanted the reader to think he was dumb and suicidal. Maybe something like, "Battle was his brandy; glory was his chaser."

    (Obviously not an apt reference for the character, but you get the idea).
     
  18. raine_d

    raine_d Active Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2011
    Messages:
    158
    Likes Received:
    140
    maybe something like...? "if it was dangerous, James was always all for it."
     
  19. truthbeckons

    truthbeckons Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2017
    Messages:
    150
    Likes Received:
    159
    Location:
    Australia
    That's kind of clunky repetition though, you don't really want to have 'always all'. Plus having two 'it's and two 'was's in the same short sentence is kind of dull. Not the strongest sentence.

    Maybe:
    The problem is that the OP's thought 'James liked danger' is very simple, and making the sentence longer and more complicated won't make that thought more complex if it doesn't add anything.

    So if it's going to be written longer, the thought itself has to be expanded. That's why, as one solution, I'd suggest using figurative language to make the point and also create some imagery that adds to the story.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2017
  20. Pharthan

    Pharthan Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2017
    Messages:
    100
    Likes Received:
    50
    A good approach might be to broach it from the character's point of view.

    Why does the character favor danger?
    • Does he simply not care?
    • Does he want to be injured?
    • Does he enjoy the risk?
    • Does he not understand why he likes danger, but he merely know he does?
    Your "Moth to a flame" evokes the last.
    Many are daredevils (the third). If the character is depressed (unlikely the way you wrote it, but it would be the second), or does your character simply have a bit of an invincibility complex similar to modern teens (the first)?

    I get a feeling you're going for the daredevil approach. In which case, maybe add in something to the effect of how it makes him feel.
     
  21. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    3,428
    Likes Received:
    1,989
    Nice one, @ChickenFreak !
     
    jannert likes this.
  22. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,285
    Likes Received:
    19,021
    Location:
    Scotland
    Yes. Telling us that James was drawn to danger, rather than creating an interesting image like James losing interest in roller-coasters because they never came off the track, isn't going to make the concept stick. A strong image will always make a concept stick. Just trotting out a phrase or a cliché probably won't. And if you've already shown the different ways James has been drawn to danger since childhood, that's probably enough. You might want to assume the reader will get this concept, and resist the urge to bang them over the head with it.
     
  23. cherrya

    cherrya Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2013
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    61
    That might be best. It could be that I was just not satisfied with the way I was describing it, like it wasn't saying it enough. I've been struggling with this chapter for so long that I think I just wanted a magical answer to finally be able to move on, but that's where you go wrong, I think.

    I've tried something new (I talked about how his parents were terrified he'd find a way to get himself killed when he was a child. I like this much better.)

    Thanks for your ideas everyone. I feel like I grow so much with your answers. Writing in English is so new to me that it sometimes feels so obscure. There's so many things I don't know, it's nice to feel like I can always come here and people will actually do their best to help, and won't make fun of me for not knowing obvious things (like the moth to a flame thing, haha, it's been noted).

    Anyway thanks a lot! You're all amazing for taking the time to help me with this!
     
    jannert and truthbeckons like this.
  24. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Messages:
    174
    Likes Received:
    117
    Location:
    Germany
    Let's found a "non-native english writers" club. ^ ^

    Btw. my older brother climbed out of the window in the second floor at age 5 to see what his grandmother in the next room did. Talk about liking danger!
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice