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Thread: How's this word choice sound?
July 21st, 2014, 09:13 PM #1
How's this word choice sound?
"As he crested a sharp and fulminous ridge of orange-crimson rock, he saw the settlement ahead of him."
How does that sound to you? It's meant to describe a very harsh and jagged landscape on an airless moon.
As I wrote it, the word "fulminous" leapt to mind for some reason, so I wrote it down. Then I realized I, er, wasn't exactly sure what it even meant. So I looked it up and found this:
fulminous (ˈfʌlmɪnəs; ˈfʊl-)
1. harshly critical
2. of, involving, or resembling thunder and lightning
It sort of describes the scene in a metaphorical sort of way. Sort of. I'd like to stick with my intuition, but I don't want my readers to think I'm a dunce who just tosses interesting words into a sentence without knowing what they even mean. The story is lighthearted and humorous, meant to be sort of Douglas Adams-esque, so maybe I can get away with more than I would otherwise. But I'd like some opinions.
July 21st, 2014, 10:17 PM #2
Looks like the term fulminous edge came out of a spell from the video game, "Golden Sun".
I do not think it is the best choice.What's for dinner, Yod?
July 21st, 2014, 11:24 PM #3
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Well, ya learn something new every day.
While I like the word, I agree it is probably not the best choice, but I don't think it will hurt you too much with readers like me.
I did not know what the word meant, so when I first read the sentence, I focused on the orange-crimson rock. I got the sense that it was either sunset and/or the landscape was orange to red. I did not get a sense of whether it was harsh (jagged, as you put it) country or not. However, I assume you'll clue the reader in on that part as your characters makes their way down to the settlement, no?
July 22nd, 2014, 03:10 PM #4
Why not use the word crag? I think it means exactly what you describe.
a steep, rugged rock; rough, broken, projecting part of a rock.
"Cresting the crag of orange-crimson rock he saw the settlement ahead."
Just my .02 credits.
July 22nd, 2014, 07:13 PM #5
I think it depends on your style. If you have a habit of filling your writing with large, little-known words then this would fit right in, and the people looking it up would just take it as a metaphor. If you don't use these kinds of words much or at all, then it will probably stick out and take the reader out of the story.
July 22nd, 2014, 08:16 PM #6
What did he do?
He crested. He saw.
What did he crest? What did he see?
He crested a ridge. He saw the settlement.
Where was the settlement?
Ahead of him.
What was the ridge made of?
Describe the ridge?
Sharp and fulminous.
He exerted himself over the sharp, fulvous rock and crested the ridge, seeing the settlement ahead of him.
This structure gives the reader much more time to imagine his interaction with the rock before you use the "cresting" verb which doesn't imply harsh or jagged. In the original, my mind picked out "crest," "orange-crimson," and "settlement."
July 22nd, 2014, 10:45 PM #7
However, the word fulminous itself might not work because it doesn't really seem to mean anything involving mountain ranges, unless there is thunder and lightening over the mountain range? Fulminous doesn't mean jagged, bleak or harsh, except in the term of overwhelming criticism. Is the mountain range being harshly critical? Is it thundering? So as an adjective for a mountain range, for what it looks like, what does it mean? Especially when it is a sound adjective -- the harsh sound of criticism, the sound of thunder -- rather than a visual adjective. It may have popped in your head because it seemed to mean a combination of full and tremendous, but as you note, that's not one of its meanings.
You mention it has a metaphoric connection to the story -- that the sight of the mountain range can for the character have the same impact as thunder? But a metaphor like that would probably need to have more context regarding the pov character for people to understand the comparison that is being made. Why would that particular character see a big arid orange mountain range as thundering? So you might want to look for a synonym to jagged or imposing for the mountain range and save the word fulminous for a later sound situation where it would be more apt.
July 23rd, 2014, 01:36 PM #8
But no, I think I'll save the word until I find a more appropriate spot for it. I could probably get away with it - but if I'm merely "getting away" with my word choices, that implies I could do better.
JimF, I like "crag" instead of "ridge". Good suggestion, thanks!
Bodhi, "fulvous" is a great word that I wouldn't have thought of, so thanks for that, too, though I don't know if it's quite right for this particular sentence. I'll remember it for later.
July 27th, 2014, 10:31 AM #9
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Taking a different tack here. Why does the reader need to know the details you're putting in? Why does you POV character notice them (these are related questions.)
Details that connect to the character and the plot are the most useful and deserve the most words. So you've got a moon (of a planet? What kind of planet? What kind of star?) that's got rugged terrain, and someone's coming over a ridge and seeing a settlement below. The character must have been climbing to the top of the ridge (How far? For how long? On an existing trail, or picking his way over/between the jagged rocks?) and climbing takes effort. So--whether he's in a pressure suit breathing tanked air, or out in the open on a moon big enough to have a breathable atmosphere, and whether it's a 1G gravity field or more or less, he's going to be aware of the slope up, breathing harder than on level ground. Possibly hoping this is the last ridge to climb before finding the settlement.
Jagged rocks. Think why. If this near a volcano? A fault line? Are the rocks jagged because of severe erosion, or impact from space, or...what? Does the character notice the color because it's common (like red rocks in Australia) or unusual (most of the rocks he's seen are brown or gray but right here they're vivid) or because he's a geologist and recognizes the minerals that provide the color?
If the details of the rocks have no further plot relevance and the character has no reason to notice the color (he's just the kind who would bother--a rock is a rock is a rock) then "Breathless from the climb, X crested the jagged ridge and caught sight of the settlement beyond" would be sufficient. If the rocks are plot-relevant (they contain minerals some desire, create a danger to the settlement, the character is thrilled/appalled to have found them, etc.) then their crimson-orange coloration and shape should be mentioned. If the character has reason to know what they are--what caused the jaggedness, what made the colors--then let that show. "Breathless both from exercise and excitement, Y picked up a fallen chunk of rock and stuffed it in his pack. Iron-rich...some cadmium...sulfur too of course...he would know as soon as he made it back to the settlement where he could analyze it properly. And if it was a rich ore, they would not be the povery-stricken dead end of nowhere any longer..."
Help the reader connect details to meaning--meaning as the characters see it, meaning in terms of plot-relevance.