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Glelas
October 16th, 2006, 12:15 PM
A weakness of mine, I am finding is not ideas, plot, structure, character etc but what I like to call a vocabulary problem (even though I may be incorrect in calling it that). What I do is this:

Example

My sentence: He picked up an apple off the ground.
After critiqued I am advised to try: He snatched an apple off the ground.

MY sentence: He took an arrow from his quiver.
After critique: He slipped an arrow from his quiver.

My sentence: He would walk through the village at dawn. Old women whispering all around him.
After critique: He would walk through the village at dawn surrounded by the murmurings of old women.

The first reaction is to say "get a Thesaurus" but no thesaurus can help this. It is constant and happens to every single sentence of mine. Besides, "picked up" is not in the thesaurus. I know once in a blue moon this works, but the majority of the time it doesn't. Anyone know what I can do to strengthen whatever short coming this is?

Dazzlinkat
October 16th, 2006, 12:46 PM
When you go back and edit your stuff, try and think of three different verbs to fit your sentences. Then pick the verb or phrase you like best.
EX: He picked up/ snatched/ plucked an apple off the ground.

If you notice alot of short sentences and its not a fast action scene, do the same thing by trying to combine some of them.
EX: He would walk through the village at dawn with old women whispering all around him/ followed by the whisperings of old women/ surrounded by the murmurings of old women.

Hereford Eye
October 16th, 2006, 02:13 PM
BYW, you truly do not want to improve the problem; you are looking for a means to eliminate the problem or to improve your response to the problem or to developing a technique to counter the problem.

IMHO, it isn't your choice of vocabulary that is problemmatic. There is nothing wrong per se with 'he picked up the book.' What is wrong is that one such sentence after another after another is monotonous reading; people don't want to begin and definitely will not continue reading things that are monotonous.

Dawnstorm
October 16th, 2006, 03:10 PM
Well, I see three sample sentences, and three different problems, only one of which is, IMO, a vocabulary problem (and another one might have one, but doesn't when I read). One thing you should never do is add fancy words just for the sake of it.

So, now to the examples:


My sentence: He picked up an apple off the ground.
After critiqued I am advised to try: He snatched an apple off the ground.

This one is not primarily a vocabulary problem. "Picked up" is fine; snatched may cause undue emphasis on the action of "picking up"; it does have the advantage to be more specific, more visual, but if it's a casual action, I'd advise you to keep "picked up". More specific is only good, if you're going for visuals.

The problem is that you have two particles "up", and "off". While, grammatically, there's nothing wrong with the sentence, I'd still try and avoid two such particles, as they suggest different motions (or - in this case - different perspectives of the same motion). So, I do think that "He snatched an apple off the ground," is better, but only because you got rid of "up" in the process, which focuses the movement into the "off" alone.

Alternatively, you could have just said. "He picked up an apple." Unless he's in a place where apples lie everywhere, on the ground, on tables, chairs... "off the ground" carries no information and doesn't need to be said. (I imagine he's walking in a garden/outside place that has apple trees.)


MY sentence: He took an arrow from his quiver.
After critique: He slipped an arrow from his quiver.

This could be a vocabulary problem, of the generic word vs. specific word variety. "Slipped" is more vivid than "took", as it inolves manner as well content. ("Took" is generic, only saying what he did, not how.)

So the question you might ask is "How did he take the arrow out of his quiver?" Don't be afraid to use adverbs at that stage.

Once you have: "Silently, he took an arrow from his quiver," for example, you can then look for words that mean "took silently". If you don't come up with any, either go back to "took" or keep the adverb, depending on preference.

"Quickly, he took an arrow from his quiver." --> "He snatched an arrow from his quiver."

etc.

I'm sure you've come across people who suggest only/mainly using "said" for dialogue tags. Whether you want more descriptive words, or whether the simple ones suffice, is both a question of context and one of style. As HE said, you may not always want to change the words (because then, instead of being monotonous, you might run the risk of being "pretentious", or "overly elaborate"). Tastes differ.

And never, never ever, use words you're not comfortable using, or you're not familiar with. Thesaurus words often have unintended humour in them...


My sentence: He would walk through the village at dawn. Old women whispering all around him.
After critique: He would walk through the village at dawn surrounded by the murmurings of old women.

This, IMO, is an example of a pretty nice sentence turned into a monstrosity that doesn't flow.

The only problem I spot in this sentence is one of punctuation ("...dawn, old..."), and even that may not be a problem, depending on context and/or style.

You could perhaps experiment with sentence structure.

He would walk through the village at dawn, old women whispering all around him.

-->

At dawn he would through the village, all around him the whispering of old women.

Through the village he would walk at dawn, old women whispersing all around him.

He would walk through the village at dawn. Old women would whisper all around him. [...]

But I don't think there's anything wrong with your original sentence. And personally, I prefer "all around him" to "surrounded" (again context might change that). Whether the old women are murmering or whispering changes the meaning slightly, so - who knows - the "murmurs" might be more appropriate.

***

What, exactly, is your problem? Do you need others to point out the problems? Do you see them, but can't think of how amend them? "Word choice" may sometimes improve the text, but if you're talking about "every single sentence", I'm a bit suspicious.

The best way to improve vocabulary is still: slowly, over time, while reading lots of books. If your vocabulary doesn't improve that way, the simple words are part of your style. I'd advise against violating it.

Ranke Lidyek
October 24th, 2006, 04:03 AM
Your problem stems from mundane verb usage. Verbs are the muscles in prose. When I read, I always keep an eye out for smart uses of verbs. You can do so much with a verb and avoid including the use of unwieldy adjectives or adverbs. My recommendation is to keep writing and note any suggestions others give you. If you "train" yourself to look and recognize great verb usage, invariably, you will end up picking up tricks of the trade and crafting great, active sentences.
Of the many problems to have, this is one of the better ones. It recedes with practice.
Plotting and "showing" are usually the flaws most difficult to fix. If you have those down, then you're in there. You can always "dress" sentences up during edits.
Hope this helps and keep writing!
Ranke

choppy
October 24th, 2006, 07:45 AM
Read more.

Exposing yourself to a wider variety of prose will naturally give you a better stockpile of options as you create your own work.