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Young Writers Society
Pretty words don't make the story
Tue Dec 02, 2008 4:18 am
I've seen countless times a story where the writer has an amazing vocabulary, and that makes them think they can get away with murder. One story I was blown away - it had no structure, no plot, no storyline, and the grammar couldn't get worse. I finished reading, and I read the reviews. I almost shoved a knife into my heart.
People were saying the story was great. Awesome. Now, I'm telling you that it was very, very short - about 500 words or so. And what irritated me most was that they were commenting on her
She uses phrases, "Her elliptical eyes fluttered open, and her incandesence flooded the room." Or something of that nature. I don't even know if that makes sense.
Anyway, let's get into the actual tip: Don't let your vocabulary take over your piece of writing. I mean sure, if you only use words a second grader will know, you're not going to get very far. Writing is all about words, but it doesn't all depend on the words you use. It's what order you put them in - how you mix and match. People, unfortunately, say a piece of writing is good because they
don't understand it.
They're flustered and they don't want to admit that they don't know half the words you used. And anyway, you make the characters and everything around them seems so pretty.
Depth is what everybody aims for when they write. Think of pretty words as a mask - you hide behind them, thinking the more you use, the better you'll be. Your characters don't develop, and the story progresses like a three-legged turtle. Your protaganist may be effervescent and loquacious, and she may be an ingenue, but you can't let your story be sempiternal. And by the way, if that sentence was correct in any which way, congratulate me.
Don't hide behind your words. Delve deeper into the story - you may use the tag "said" one hundred and twelve times in your novel, and everything may be "pretty" and "nice," but your vocabulary doesn't define your story. What your vocabulary says defines your story.
Last edited by
on Wed Jan 29, 2014 3:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
Sun Jan 12, 2014 7:24 am
You do not know how much I agree with you. It's more important to be well-acquainted with the words in your vocabulary. I mean, who'd prefer "her pulchritudinous physiognomy" over a clean, vivid description of her face?
Wed Jan 29, 2014 3:08 am
I think a Latin or Greek professor might take particular glee in "her pulchritudinous physiognomy", but that's my only guess for now. Thank you for the kind words! ^_^
Tue Jun 10, 2014 10:25 am
as a student of latin and ancient greek I can say that "her pulchritudinous physiognomy" is no less forgivable.
another point to add is the issue with big words is that they're vague. Pulchritudinous physiognomy doesn't really say much, right? Nor does 'she was pretty', but in the former example, you wasted time typing longer words. Complexity should never be sacrificed for effectiveness. Sometimes, it is true, a latinism will possess a subtle shade another, more simple word does not, or it is more pleasing rhythmically in a certain context, but usually it's not worth it.
vulgus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur
Thu Jun 12, 2014 3:24 am
Just wanted to put in my thoughts.
I totally agree with you. I also think that using lots of large and complex vocabulary can harm a writer's story more than help it. When someone starts with very technical terms, it decides the style for their writing. The reader will simply expect a large vocabulary from the writer. This means the writer will be putting in words they've flipped through a thesaurus to find just to make the reader think they're smart.
It's not that an extensive vocabulary isn't helpful, it's just not the forefront of the story. Putting a intense term here and there is fine, but when it overtakes the work and simply bombards the audience with words they have never heard, they'll be searching the dictionaries to understand what you have said instead of focusing on the story.
In addition, it's simply pretentious. And it definitely is hiding behind the vocabulary. Writers might believe their vocabulary is bridging some gap in the plot or setting or something, when in reality it's further distancing the reader from the story and only making it harder to understand.
Good vocabulary is fine, just use it to your advantage.
Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:58 pm
Hey! I like the way you put in the thing about complex words. I'm currently writing a novel that has a lot of words that not a lot of people use. But I think they are easy enough. And I'm not very used to using hard words either. Just the ones I've read being used in stuff I've read.
It's just that some stories need the elegant diction. But there is a line between elegant and downright stupendous. I think we all need to understand that.
When you cut pieces out of the truth to avoid looking like a fool you end up looking like a moron instead.
— Robin Hobb
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