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Specificity in Vocabulary

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Specificity in Vocabulary

Postby eleika » Thu Nov 02, 2006 3:49 pm

When I got a chance to sit down with Carol Berg and she went over the first few pages of my manuscript, one of the things that kept coming up was the issue of specificity. That is, using the exact words, saying exactly what you mean. It's something I personally need to work on.

I've come to realize how big specificity is. Like saying "vestubule" when referring to a certain room in a church, or "sauntered" instead of "walked smugly", or naming certain plants or trees as one passes through a garden or woods, like "hollyhops" and "oaks" rather than just calling them, well, "plants and trees".

Does anyone else have this issue? Or any suggestions on how to build specificity, or skills at using a larger, more descriptive vocabulary?
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Postby Ariel » Sat Nov 04, 2006 1:54 pm

Naming the specific plants and trees brings the story to life. Just be more observant about the surroundings of the area you're writing about and be more descriptive.

As for using the proper words, do you use a thesaurus or dictionery, or do you just assume you know the proper word to use as many writers do?
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Postby Magus » Sat Nov 04, 2006 9:14 pm

Vocabulary is essential. Knowing precisely what diction can be used to best describe what you mean to say is key in terms of writing, whose sole function is to transcribe as vividly as possible the dreams of its author. Having an expanded vocabulary and specific knowledge of what you want to describe isn't just the mark of a great writer, but of any writer of any real or signifigant merit. Without it, you can only ever hope to be monetarilly successful, because you'll never earn any critical merit.
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Postby NeoScribe » Sun Nov 05, 2006 2:23 am

Having a large vocabulary is always good. Generic "plants and trees" can lead the reader to imagine an enviroment that could be entirely different than the one you wanted them to picture. Using specifics will enhance your readers idea of where they are (unless they're like me who took a couple days to realize that To Kill A Mockingbird was not set in California). However, don't let the vocab get out of hand. It's no use informing youre reader that a character has multi-thought processing capabilities if they have no clue what that is. Use language freely but becareful with the "thees" and "thous."
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Postby Magus » Sun Nov 05, 2006 8:41 am

That's nothing. My entire class thought that the Finch's were black.

:rofl:

Our teacher cought it early, but it was confusing for a while there.

:roll:
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Postby NeoScribe » Sun Nov 05, 2006 9:23 am

Hahahahahahahahaha! That's funny :lol:
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Postby berry » Thu Nov 30, 2006 6:57 am

The ability to re-create what is seen in the minds eye and to communicate that to another person is what every writer really aspires to. Vocabulary can be used to create so much more than that though, the more attention to the exact words used the richer the piece will be. For an example - the difference between David Eddings and Mervyn Peake. Peake doesn't just describe the world he created, he communicates what it feels like to be there, he communicates the passage of time and the weight of responsibility without the much more simple devices of Eddings who would simply say 'and the years passed' or something similar. The specifics are what will make it your vision rather than a generic one. Get out the thesaurus and it is definitely worth reading as much as you can.
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Postby Talon Sinnah » Thu Nov 30, 2006 5:49 pm

Yes but too much of a good thing is no good thing. Tolkien, a good writer and perhaps the father of fantasy, had a bad habit of using two pages to describe something that would of been just as effective in two paragraphs.
I am the poet of the body and I am the poet of the Soul. The pleasures of heaven are with me and the pains of hell are with me. The first I graft and increase upon myself, the latter I translate into a new tongue.

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Postby Magus » Thu Nov 30, 2006 6:57 pm

Father of modern fantasy most definately, father of contemporary of course... but father of the fantasy genre as a whole? Nonononononononono. The first fantasies fall under religion and mythology... Greek, Norse, Japanese, the various Native American and African Tribes, Celts, Slavics, Egyptian, not to mention the religions of Islam and the various sects of Cristianity. The fantasy genre is thousands and thousands of years old. Tolkien merely made it's most popular contemporary form.

Sorry about that rant.

Anyway... yeah.
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Postby berry » Fri Dec 01, 2006 10:32 am

Talon, In Tolikiens case, I would have to agree, but then he was able to communicate difficult aspects of his story for example the journey of Frodo and Sam, I really felt as though I was on that journey with them, and it felt long and tiring. It wasn't just description that allowed that feeling to come through. I know Tolkien has a special place in Literature but I think Mervyn Peakes trilogy is underrated and actually superior with respect to quality of writing. His use of language is beautiful, not just descriptive, it is evocative. Each character is fully realized and utterly believable. Tolkiens characters endearing as they are, are often twee and 2 dimensional.
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Postby Magus » Fri Dec 01, 2006 10:48 am

I look at it as this: Tolkien may very be he best writer the world has ever known, but he's far from its greatest author. Those two concepts are as different as night and day, and it's painstakingly evident that Tolkien was the Oxford Professor of Anglo-Saxon Literature, as opposed to a professional author.
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