1. EraserLark

    EraserLark New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2020
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    6

    Resources for finding words?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by EraserLark, Apr 4, 2020.

    When I try writing, one of the things that throws me off a lot is whenever I have an image in my head of a thing, a feeling, etc. of I want to describe, but I can't pinpoint the word that I'm looking for. Are there any good resources out there (besides a dictionary) that can help with finding words?

    Thanks!
     
  2. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Creature of Quarantine Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Messages:
    1,031
    Likes Received:
    2,084
    Thesaurus.com helps me. Like if I know the general emotion I want to convey (like "anger" for example), it comes up with synonyms and sometimes it will get really specific. I searched "alien" and it had a tab for "foreign" (which gave synonyms for tab for foreign) and "extra terrestrial" which gave synonyms for that. The more general a word you use, the more tabs will open. I think I searched "prophet" and I had like five tabs... Holy man, mysticism, and some other stuff.

    It's my go to
     
    Cdn Writer, EraserLark and Xoic like this.
  3. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    1,108
    Likes Received:
    1,473
    Location:
    edge of the spacetime continuum
    A Thesaurus. The most popular is called Roget's. My computer's dictionary has a thesaurus built in, when I look up a word I can click to see either the definition (dictionary) or synonyms and antonyms (thesaurus). You can also look up synonyms or antonyms (other words with similar or opposite meanings) online.

    Another fun and interesting thing to do with words is look up the etymology, which is the original meaning of the word, and if you find a good source it sometimes shows you how it came to mean what it means today, which can be fascinating and really help you understand things. Like for instance, how come it seems like there are so many meanings to a word like medium?

    It can be a size, a spiritual person, a substance that you mix with paint, etc. But when you look uo the etymology you discover it actually means an in-between, and if you think about it, that works for all of the above. The size medium is between large and small, a spiritual medium exists between the worlds of the living and the dead, and a painting medium (media actually) goes in between the canvas and the paint. Oh, and mass media too, it exists between advertisers and the public, to allow the messages to flow between.
     
    Cdn Writer and EraserLark like this.
  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    14,931
    Likes Received:
    17,584
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    thesaurus.jpg
     
  5. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    1,108
    Likes Received:
    1,473
    Location:
    edge of the spacetime continuum
    D'ya think 'e saurus?
     
    Cave Troll, Cdn Writer and EraserLark like this.
  6. EraserLark

    EraserLark New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2020
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    6
    Okay yep a thesaurus will definitely come in handy then. Thanks for all of your help!
     
    Cdn Writer likes this.
  7. EraserLark

    EraserLark New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2020
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    6
    That's a great idea too! I never thought of approaching it that way, but I'll definitely try it out. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2020
    Cdn Writer likes this.
  8. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    1,108
    Likes Received:
    1,473
    Location:
    edge of the spacetime continuum
    Awesome. Just make sure you get the kind that's a book (or use the internet), not the kind that's a dinosaur... :D
     
    Cdn Writer and EraserLark like this.
  9. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    1,788
    Likes Received:
    2,011
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    I'm not sure how a thesaurus will help. It's only useful if you know another word for the thing that you're trying to look up (or with some, the opposite of).
     
    Cdn Writer likes this.
  10. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    1,108
    Likes Received:
    1,473
    Location:
    edge of the spacetime continuum
    If he can't pinpoint the word, it sounds like he at least has vague ideas. From there a thesaurus can lead you to better choices. If not that, then I don't know what else to recommend.
     
    Cdn Writer likes this.
  11. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    3,978
    Likes Received:
    3,234
    Writing a story is not about the words used to describe something as much as it is the words that tell a story. That might sound simple enough, but I think it's important to remember. I try not to really picture images in my head. I've found it much better to try listening to my brain tell me things than to try and recap a more visual imagination. And I think it makes for much better writing (for myself at least). There are no perfect words, but I have read many perfect stories. It's just another way of looking at things and approaching writing. Maybe it will help you.

    As far as resources go, I have found the more I put into reading the easier the writing.
     
  12. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    1,788
    Likes Received:
    2,011
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    Well, if you can't think of what it's called, you can't keep referring to it as "the small four legged animal that goes woof". Sometimes you need the word.
     
  13. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    16,133
    Likes Received:
    17,801
    Location:
    Scotland
    I don't quite know how to employ it myself ...although I try ...but I remember being told that rather than searching for a perfect word, it's often better to find a more exact image to portray what you mean—to show the concept and get the reader to experience it with you.

    This is NOT a stellar example, but instead of searching for a dictionary/thesaurus word that means your startled character made a 'sudden huge leap,' maybe mention your character reacted like a startled grasshopper. Something like that, anyway. Create a specific image, rather than hunting for a better word.
     
    Xoic, Cdn Writer, Thundair and 2 others like this.
  14. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    3,978
    Likes Received:
    3,234
    @jannert -- I like that about creating a supporting image of sorts. To me, it's still all words, but I think I'm going to play around with what you're saying. Thanks. :)
     
    Cdn Writer likes this.
  15. EraserLark

    EraserLark New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2020
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    6
    @deadrats I've usually employed the opposite strategy of imagining something and then trying to think of the words that most accurately portray it, but I'll plan on trying out your method too in the future. Thanks for the advice!

    @jannert I think you make a great point as well! Thanks!
     
    Cdn Writer and deadrats like this.
  16. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2017
    Messages:
    1,081
    Likes Received:
    883
    Location:
    San Diego
    I sometimes think of the opposite word like; joy would be emotional pain.
    Also, when I started writing again, I had to look up what was the acceptable description to show body reactions in literature.

    https://www.dailywritingtips.com/100-words-for-facial-expressions/
     
    Cdn Writer and EraserLark like this.
  17. EraserLark

    EraserLark New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2020
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    6
    @Thundair I've never thought about approaching it from that way before, that's an interesting method! Thanks for the link as well, all this will definitely come in handy.
     
    Cdn Writer and Thundair like this.
  18. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Messages:
    712
    Likes Received:
    1,364
    I always find myself using thesaurus.com, but I sure do hate that site. It's so obviously set up for clicks. When I'm really serious, I use Rodel's "Synonym Finder" and Roget's Thesaurus. The actual paper copies.

    I assume we want online resources . . .

    An interesting site is The Phrase Thesaurus, which will match your word to phrases. Sometimes that helps you come up with ideas.

    I also like these word web sites. Visuwords is a good one. Graphwords is another. There are some that are pay-to-use. How sad. I'm not even going to waste time linking to them. Words should be free. Visuwords is actually pretty fun with how the words pop up when you click on them. Okay, in a nerdy way. It's actually not fun at all, but you know what I mean. Try out that link above. You double-click the bubbles and they keep expanding.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2020
  19. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2019
    Messages:
    364
    Likes Received:
    256
    Location:
    Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, North America
    Reader's Digest has a feature called "word power" which I enjoy. I've always read the print editions but they should be online as well - Google "reader's digest + word power" or something like "word of the day" and there should be some ideas there....

    Oh - this is for expanding your knowledge/vocabulary, not finding specific words, but it *MIGHT* inspire some new directions in your writing.....
     
    EraserLark, Xoic and Seven Crowns like this.
  20. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    1,108
    Likes Received:
    1,473
    Location:
    edge of the spacetime continuum
    I just ran across something that fits at least peripherally in this thread. It's from a book called Writing With Power: techniques for mastering the writing process by Peter Elbow:


    I am indebted to an important phenomenological philosopher, Eugene Gendlin. "Felt sense" is the useful term that he coined. What I and others have learned from him is how to make more room for felt sense. As Gendlin points out, people often experience meaning at a nonverbal and even inchoate level. But he lays out a process that is remarkably helpful in finding words for what we sense but cannot yet express:

    • Accept the words that just arrive in the mind and mouth. Welcome them.

    • But then pause and be comfortable about noticing if they are wrong or don't fit what we feel or intend. Ask, "Do these words get at what I'm aiming for?" That is, don't ignore or blot out the sense of wrongness and just blunder onwards out of a feeling of, "Oh well, I'm just not a verbal, articulate kind of person."

    • Pause and pay attention not just to the wrongness or gap but to the felt sense or felt meaning or intention behind the wrong words. Try to listen to the felt sense—or, more precisely, try to feel it, even in the body.

    • From this attending or feeling for felt sense, invite new words to come.

    It's important to recognize that this process (putting out words, noticing the gap, pausing to attend to felt sense, putting out more words) often needs to go on more than once. Often we don't find the "right" words on the first go around. But if we continue with the process—listening for a wrongness or gap behind the new set of words—we often finally find the words that click, that express exactly what we felt.

    This is something I've done myself many times. I'm not sure the part I posted really describes it clearly, but it's usually when I'm trying to remember a word or a name and having a hard time with it. In fact, here's one I went through just the other day, trying to think of the word for 'a word that's spelled the same backwards as forwards'. I had learned it years ago but never really used it, so it had fallen back into the memory hole, but I did remember that it's the name for a particular kind of sentry who walks back and forth on the battlements of a fortress or castle. I could have looked that up, but my internet wasn't cooperating at the time, so I just kept struggling with it.

    After some time I had a flash thought, that it either starts with a P or somehow a P is important in it. I ran through lot of words with a prominent P in them but wasn't getting anywhere, when suddenly the word Paradigm hit me. I knew that isn't the right word, but somehow I also knew it was very close. A little more struggle and suddenly I had it: Palindrome.

    I know, that was about remembering a lost word, but the process works the same way, because in a sense if your'e searching for the right words they're probably words you already know but just can't think of. This kind of groping in the dark but holding onto the sense that it's almost within my grasp works for trying to find the right words or expressions too.

    And often in a situation like that I'll just put down a placeholder, a word that I know isn't right but I'll make it red or some color to indicate it needs some work. That way my mind has time to cogitate on it for a while.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2020
    jannert, EraserLark and Thundair like this.
  21. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2018
    Messages:
    1,048
    Likes Received:
    1,752
    Location:
    Texas
    Thesaurus. I know it's been said before, but what you're looking for is a thesaurus. Your question is practically the definition of a thesaurus.

    I'm with @Seven Crowns. Thesaurus.com is all you need most of the time, but there are better resources.

    If you're working in Microsoft Word, there's an even quicker solution. Highlight a word you want to replace and hit [shift + F7]. More often than not, you'll find the word you wanted. If not, go to thesaurus.com. If you want something more comprehensive, buy a copy of one of the books Seven Crowns mentioned or find my personal favorite, Webster's New World Dictionary and Thesaurus. Mine is the second edition from 2002. Instead of splitting the book into two sections, they split every page in half with dictionary on top and thesaurus on bottom. It's infinitely handy and a far better resource than any I've found online, even from Webster themselves.

    Many people will tell you that you should never use a word you find in a thesaurus unless you already know how to use it. I think that's ridiculous. I would instead say, don't use a word you find in a thesaurus until you understand it's usage. We have resources to give us definitions and example sentences - dictionary.com, thesaurus.com's other half, being one of them - so why not learn a new word and start using it? You know, so long as it actually fits where you want it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2020
    jannert, Xoic, N.Scott and 1 other person like this.
  22. Jon7z

    Jon7z Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2019
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    34
    Onelook thesaurus is my favorite - https://www.onelook.com/thesaurus/
     
  23. scorpia95

    scorpia95 New Member

    Joined:
    Saturday
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Canada
    I have this chart called an Emotion Wheel. It really helps me with describing how I feel.

     
  24. Foxxx

    Foxxx The Debonair Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2016
    Messages:
    2,519
    Likes Received:
    2,789
    Location:
    The Heaven and Hell in my mind.
    Friend of mine gave me this old dusty tome of a book called "The Wordfinder". Doesn't work like a traditional thesaurus; more like finding words that are one-degree-of-Kevin-Bacon-away.
     
  25. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Toast Muncher Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2017
    Messages:
    1,149
    Likes Received:
    1,248
    Location:
    The Land of Whimsy
    You mean the words are divided into several main classes and then subdivided into various clusters of similar-meaning words?
     

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