Archive for ‘The Writing Craft’

July 21, 2013

Word Bullies

by Lorna's Voice
I read as many books as I can. But I need new glasses. The print seems to get smaller all the time.

I read as many books as I can. But I need new glasses. The print seems to get smaller all the time.

Most of you know that I am a word nerd admirer.

But some words are just mean-spirited. I think they are just hanging out, waiting to beat me (and be “me” I mean “you’) into submission.

How?

By bamboozling us (and by “us” I mean “you). Because they sound like one thing but mean something very different. And isn’t that just like a bully? They act like one thing, but they are really something very different.

These word are impostors! And what’s more, if you fall into their trap, you can get mighty embarrassed by the, oh, 5% of people who actually know what these words mean. So these wards can usually just go around being word bullies–confusing and embarrassing you. Well, lucky for you, I’m here to help you stand up to them. Knowledge is power People!

Bullies may act tough, but when you get to see their tender underbellies, well, they're not so tough after all.

Bullies may act tough, but when you get to see their tender underbellies, well, they’re pretty tender after all.

I’ve selected a few of the Word Bullies to call on the carpet. Maybe you know others. The more of them we can strip of their power over us, the safer we all will be (linguistically speaking, that is). And wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all felt safer taking in the streets without worrying about someone laughing at us for misusing one of these words? Okay, I can think of better ways to make the world a better place, but I’m a blogger, not a freaking politician or celebrity.

Got one for you Colin! Word Bullies. No not people who bully with words. Lots of people are already on that bandwagon. Speak out against words that bully people around. I mean, how many people even know this is a problem? You could be the spokesperson for a brand new cause. Just don't use the wrong words...

Got one for you Colin! Word Bullies. No not people who bully with words. Lots of people are already on that bandwagon. Speak out against words that bully people around. I mean, how many people even know this is a problem? You could be the spokesperson for a brand new cause. Just don’t use highfalutin  words in your speeches. That would totally confuse your followers, all 9 of us.

Crapulous. Now there’s a word for you. I bet you think it’s a new word meaning the opposite of fabulous. Nope! It’s an old word (adjective) originating from the Latin crapula (not to be confused with the Transylvania Dracula) meaning given to or characterized by gross excess in drinking or eating. “The crapulous girls took the horse for a ride on the beach.” Just doesn’t sound right, does it?

Maybe the horse got a little crapulous, too.

Maybe the horse got a little crapulous, too.

Formication. Hey, wait just a minute! I run a G-rated operation here. And that’s the problem with this word. It sounds as dirty as, well, dirt. But it means but it means “an abnormal sensation as of ants creeping over the skin.” Well, if ants are involved, I suppose there is dirt somewhere…

What formication feels like. Not very sexy.

What formication feels like. Not very sexy.

Fungible. Getting the image of a mushroom? Cancel that. It’s a term lawyers use when referring to anything valuable that can replace or be replaced by something else. “The fungible assets were found mainly in the basement.” But were they edible, that’s what I want to know?

Noisome. You’d think this refers to something noisy, right? Aw, come on. That would be too easy. Anything noisome is that which is stinky, disagreeable, or otherwise offensive. I suppose a fart could be both noisy and noisome.

When she lets loose, there's going to me some major noisome happenings. You want to be far away. Very far away.

Do I really need a witty caption here? Fart images kind of stand on there own.

Pulchritude. I’m not sure what this world sounds like, but it doesn’t sound pleasant to me. It sounds like a combo platter of bacterial infection and a bad attitude, which wouldn’t make me happy. What does this word really mean? It’s a noun meaning beauty. Yup. That’s just wrong. “Her pulchritude left me speechless.” Well, was she deformed, gorgeous, or a snappy dresser?

Hey, whatchu starin at? Dey say pulchritude is is da ey of da beholder. So, go ahead and behold dis!

Hey, whatchu ‘ at? Dey say pulchritude is is da eye of da beholder. So, go ahead and behold dis!

What words can you think of that are like these big bullies: they sound like something they are not?

July 14, 2013

And how does that make you feel?

by Lorna's Voice
Pish, posh! I can escape from this get up quicker than you can forget that word you were just going to type.

Pish, posh! I can escape from this get up quicker than you can forget that word you were just going to type.

Do words ever escape you? Sometimes I feel as if the perfect word I need pulled a Harry Houdini on me. I had  it; then it vamoosed.

Maybe it’s just me. After all, I do have a few challenges in the neuron-firing department.

1. I’m dizzy all this time, which is to say, I feel as if I had one too many Margaritas during Happy Hour. It’s hard to say words sometimes, assuming I can conjure some up. But this is all because of some nebulous neurological hanky-panky the docs blame on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

I only had one drink. Why do I feel so woozy?

I only had one drink. Why do I feel so woozy?

2. I’m old. Well, I’m older than I was, say, yesterday or the day before. Heck. I’m 55 and my brain, like my metabolism, is slowing down a bit.

3. I’m a natural blonde. We can be very articulate and smart, but we often don’t get to practice those skills much. And as we all know, if we don’t use it, we lose it. At least we forget how to use it.

I'm actually working my way through law school. What? You don't care about justice, only my bust-ist? Aren't you the clever one!

I’m actually working my way through law school. What? You don’t care about justice, only my bust-ist? Aren’t you the clever one!

But maybe it’s not just me. Maybe you, too, struggle with finding the perfect word for what you are trying to write or say. Our language is abundant and bursting with descriptive words–words that make our writing more concise and colorful.

I happened to stumble upon a chart of synonyms for a few basic emotions/feelings (which vary depending on the intensity of the emotion/feeling) that the characters you write about probably experience. Mine do. And I thought that, maybe you would find this chart handy. I did.

We've all been here before, right? So how would you describe the emotions between these two characters? Do you see how useful this chart can be?

We’ve all been here before, right? So how would you describe the emotions between these two characters? Do you see how useful this chart can be?

I changed a few things on the original chart, which I discovered on Stumbleupon.com. I’m sure you could add to it for your own purposes. It’s just a tool to use when that perfect word pulls a “runner” on you.

So, here it is. I hope you find it helpful. Other than this, I have my link to my favorite online thesaurus on my tool bar. I use it all the time.

Intensity

Happy

Sad

Angry

Scared

Confused

Strong Ecstatic

Elated

Energized

Enthusiastic

Excited

Exuberant

Jubilant

Jovial

Marvelous

Terrific

Thrilled

Uplifted

Burdened

Crushed

Defeated

Dejected

Demoralized

Depressed

Devastated

Discarded

Distraught

Empty

Grievous

Helpless

Hopeless

Hurt

Miserable

Mournful

Pitiful

Sorrowful

Worthless

Wounded

 

Betrayed

Enraged

Fuming

Furious

Hateful

Hostile

Incensed

Outraged

Pissed-off

Rebellious

Repulsed

Seething

Spiteful

Strangled

Vengeful

Vindictive

 

Afraid

Appalled

Desperate

Dread

Fearful

Frantic

Horrified

Intimidated

Panicky

Petrified

Shocked

Terrified

Tormented

Vulnerable

 

Baffled

Bewildered

Directionless

Flustered

Lost

Overwhelmed

Trapped

 

Mild AliveAmused

Appreciated

Assured

Cheerful

Confident

Delighted

Encouraged

Fulfilled

Grateful

Joyful

Optimistic

Proud

Relieved

valued

AlienatedDegraded

Deprived

Disappointed

Discouraged

Disheartened

Disillusioned

Dismal

Distant

Lonely

Resigned

Slighted

Unappreciated

Upset

AgitatedAggravated

Anguished

Annoyed

Cheated

Disgusted

Exasperated

Frustrated

Irritated

Offended

Peeved

Resentful

 

AlarmedApprehensive

Defensive

Distressed

Guarded

Insecure

Shaken

Startled

Stunned

Suspicious

Threatened

Uneasy

 

AmbivalentDisorganized

Doubtful

Foggy

Hesitant

Perplexed

Puzzled

Torn

Troubled

 

Weak ContentFlattered

Fortunate

Glad

Good

Hopeful

Pleased

Relaxed

satisfied

DeflatedDisenchanted

Lost

Sorry

 

DismayedDispleased

Uptight

 

ArousedConcerned

Doubtful

Nervous

Timid

 

BotheredDistracted

Surprised

Uncertain

Uncomfortable

Undecided

Unsettled

Unsure

 

June 23, 2013

What’s My Motivation?

by Lorna's Voice
Marilyn, your motivation is to not fall out of that slip. Got it?

Marilyn, your motivation is to not let your boobies fall out of that slip. Got it?

We’ve all heard about actors asking frustrated directors who just want to get a scene shot, “What’s my motivation?”

Then the director explains for the umpteenth time what is supposed to be happening in the scene and how the actor is supposed to feel about it.

“Oh. Okay. I’ve got it,” the actor nods, trying to dig deep and find the proper emotions behind the words in the script. At least that’s what everyone who has invested a katon of money on the movie is hoping for.

Well, characters in our books and stories also need motivation. Indeed, our stories need motivation–something to propel them forward in a compelling way so that our readers can’t wait to see what happens next. In the writing business, we call that “plot.” Everything we write needs a plot, no matter how short. Our words have to take our readers on a journey and the plot is the path.

We writers are responsible for getting our readers from Point A to Point B without tripping, falling, or otherwise hurting themselves. We have to know what we're doing.

We writers are responsible for getting our readers from Point A to Point B without tripping, falling, or otherwise hurting themselves. We have to know what we’re doing.

I struggled with this whole journey, plot, path thing when I wrote my memoir. Now that I’m working on a novel, I’m back where I started: staring at the conundrum of plot. It’s different this time. Memoirs are different from fiction in some ways, but both are stories–stories that must be held together and propelled forward by a unifying journey you (the author) and the reader go on together. The plot is the map.

Dang! I hate when my lap top camera randomly takes photos of me while I'm working. Especially when I'm having a bad day.

Dang! I hate when my lap top camera randomly takes photos of me while I’m working. Especially when I’m having a bad day.

If I struggled and continue to do so, I bet a few of you do, too. So I wanted to share with you something I found that really helped me sort out the plot issue for me while writing my memoir and, now, as I write this novel (which is becoming a novel with a sequel).

Here it is.

20 master plots

Tobias, Ronald B. 20 Master Plots
This book proposes twenty basic plots:

  1. Quest
  2. Adventure
  3. Pursuit
  4. Rescue
  5. Escape
  6. Revenge
  7. The Riddle
  8. Rivalry
  9. Underdog
  10. Temptation
  11. Metamorphosis
  12. Transformation
  13. Maturation
  14. Love
  15. Forbidden Love
  16. Sacrifice
  17. Discovery
  18. Wretched Excess
  19. Ascension
  20. Descension.

Of course, there are tons of books and resources available on plots, themes, characters, you name it. But this list simplified things for me. Once I decided on my plot, I found “true North” and let that general plot theme be my compass for all of my decisions about what material to leave in and what to cut. The terms are broad enough to interpret flexibly and creatively but defined enough to keep me focused.

I hope this helps all of you who are working on pieces that are adrift and need a bit of focus that a defined plot can lend to your story. Or maybe I’m the only one who has this problem with moving a narrative forward…

Dag blammit! Maybe it is just me!

Dag blammit! Maybe it is just me!

Now, I have to get back to my novel about “quest” and the unintended consequences of refusing to give up.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,452 other followers