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Thread: Synonyms

  1. #1
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    Default Synonyms

    Hey guys! So just gonna get right straight to it. In battles/outside of battles, I find myself saying "Smile" "Smirk" or "Grin" way too much. What other synonyms for smile should I use? I really can't think of none :S

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    Demeanor would be good since it means a grin or describing a facial expression, even though it kind of doesn't fit, but it's the closest I can choose for you. Anyways, I am in the same situation as you.

    But try to learn other synonyms by using a dictionary and try to see sentences on them so you can understand on how it should be written like. Jax gave me that as advice.


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    The thing with synonyms is you can very easily turn something into purple prose. You have to expect the audience you're writing for to have an extensive vocabulary if you're going to abuse the thesaurus--and even then, a rather "exotic" word or description can still throw some people off because they expect a different word, even if it means what they think it means. So I would suggest going for the simpler words and just use synonyms sparingly. Or if it bothers you so much, just don't write out the words "smile", "grin" and "smirk", and give them a different expression altogether.

    But really, it's all up to you how you want to write, just need to have a little self-control over the thesaurus. Yes, the English language is vast in language, but that doesn't mean you should try and cram in every little word into your story.
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    Quick guide to using a thesaurus while writing:

    Step One
    Google "synonym" "[word you want to use]". Read the hits you get.

    Step Two
    Google "define: [word you want to use]". Read the hits you get.

    Step Three
    Google "[word you want to use]". Read the hits you get.

    Step Four
    Understand that there's such a thing as "connotation" and repeat step three until you're pretty sure you know what that word's connotations are.

    Step Five (optional)
    Put it in your fic.


    Kutie is pretty much on the money when it comes to synonyms, although the main trouble you'll get from abusing the thesaurus (or using lengthy words in general) is that the more "academic" you get, the more ridiculous you seem to readers. It's fanfiction, so if you use a fancy word, you'll come off as taking the whole fic thing way too seriously.

    But mostly, the steps described above are for avoiding a completely different problem: using synonyms incorrectly. See, the problem with the built-in thesaurus of your word processor (or any thesaurus, really) is that it spouts off results that are only synonyms on a technical level. Putting it another way, "mumbled," "whispered," and "rasped" all mean the same thing on a technical level. They mean "to speak quietly." However! They don't mean the exact same thing, and they all have particular times and places where they are or aren't appropriate. For example, if you use "mumbled," you're generally referring to a character who's speaking quietly because they're unsure about their answer. When you use "rasped," you're referring to a character who's speaking quietly because they're physically unable to speak any louder. While no one's stopping you from using "mumbled" when you mean "rasped," it's going to look a little awkward to a reader. So when you do use a thesaurus, it's best to make absolutely certain you understand the word you want to use instead. Look it up in the dictionary to see what its exact definition is and then look it up in a search engine to see it being used by other people.

    That being said, there's plenty of synonyms for smile, and which one would be best for you depends completely on the context. I would suggest taking only the ones that are familiar to you, refreshing your understanding of them, and putting them in rotation. As in, you can reuse the same stand-ins for "smile" over and over again, especially if they don't occur so close together. Moreover, consider cutting out a lot of the uses of those words. Why do you need to remind us that frequently per chapter that a character looks happy, after all? If you tell us that they're happy or grinning only when their moods visibly change, then that really should be enough to get the point across.

    Point is, there's definitely ways for you to skirt around using synonyms, but if you do, try putting words in rotation first and then resort to using the thesaurus only when you've run out of options.

    Good luck!

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    Alternatively, try shifting the focus away from a character's facial expression to capture their emotions. Mention movements they make with other body parts -- maybe one shifts his weight around when he's nervous, kicks at the dirt when upset, or clenches his fists when he's feeling confident? Perhaps the problem isn't that you've got no synonyms to use, but that you're defaulting far too often back to only the face to suggest what a character is feeling, so when you exhaust your list, you're left with few options that aren't repetitive as hell.


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    The above posters really said all that had to be said, but as aforementioned, a handy thesaurus is definitely suggested (Try 2 or more, as some Thesaurus' don't have some words) and make sure that your synonyms match the specific event that's happening in the story as sometimes, synonyms are used as the right words instead of adding tons of useless description that may/will get you off track while reading the story. Also, you may want to consult Beta-Readers or other writers for advice as well. A person knowledgeable in art of writing that beta-reads your chapter(s) and pinpoint mistakes and errors, could improve your writing greatly!

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    Thanks guys!

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    I'm going to have to disagree, big words, or 'pretentious' writing do not make purple prose: the overabundance of words themselves make it purple prose. A sentence of "he was elated" is not as prosey as "he was so happy he could jump the sky and high five all the green men upon the Martian surface."

    I've never understood the great distaste for a well informed word. My fear in regards to this so called pretentious writing is that to avoid pretention, I don't want to devolve into writing 'See Spot. See spot run!'

    Perhaps this is an unrealistic concern, but it perturbs me greatly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dilasc View Post
    I'm going to have to disagree, big words, or 'pretentious' writing do not make purple prose: the overabundance of words themselves make it purple prose. A sentence of "he was elated" is not as prosey as "he was so happy he could jump the sky and high five all the green men upon the Martian surface."

    I've never understood the great distaste for a well informed word. My fear in regards to this so called pretentious writing is that to avoid pretention, I don't want to devolve into writing 'See Spot. See spot run!'

    Perhaps this is an unrealistic concern, but it perturbs me greatly.
    Well, I agree that a lot of it does have to do with overabundance of such words, but there's also another part to consider. This other part is why would you say that someone is "exultant" instead of just elated? There's a difference between simplifying speech and using words you find in the dictionary to "spice up" your writing (read: make it sound more intellectual), and that's a problem a lot of newer writers tend to have. Like I said, the more academic you get (i.e., the more you move towards words that would make your work sound more like an academic discussion than a fanfiction) and the more pretentious you get, the more ridiculous you seem to other writers because it comes off as you trying to sound like you're intellectual. (There's an abundance of people in fandom who believe that the key to being a genius is sesquipedalian loquaciousness. And it gets awkward dealing with them, let alone trying to read their work, only to realize that if you take away the flowery language, the story doesn't really go anywhere and have overdramatic, brooding characters. That kind of writing alone gets associated with the kind of flowery language that we're talking about on a frequent level just because it happens so often. It doesn't really help that the narration itself ends up sounding unnatural because of the author's language choice. So in a sense, it's like script fic in that it has negative notions attached to its form, not so much because the individual work is bad but instead because it happens so frequently that a reader will be more likely to brace themselves than swallow what you're saying, unfortunately enough.) That isn't to say you need to use the same words over and over again. In fact, "elated" is a perfectly reasonable word to use. However, there's definitely a difference between that and a number of its lengthier synonyms, and there's a difference between what is and isn't going to be considered ridiculous and/or awkward.

    Of course, using a plethora of them in a short span is going to make things worse for you, but if you have the choice between describing someone as overjoyed and describing someone as ravished or rhapsodic, you may want to consider just going with overjoyed. Doubly so if the synonym you choose has horrendous alternate meanings. (Hello, ravished.)

    Point is, part of it is how many times you use flowery language. You're absolutely right in saying that. But there's also a bit of weight on which words you use, so to speak. Avoiding pretentiousness doesn't necessarily involve reducing your prose to basic words. It actually more involves writing what sounds natural to you. For a lot of people, academic/pretentious words don't sound natural (because "no one talks like that" -- as in, no one actually uses the words we're talking about in everyday language), and that's just one of the reasons why readers get so uncomfortable with seeing them pop up.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 7th February 2013 at 1:48 AM.

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Well, I agree that a lot of it does have to do with overabundance of such words, but there's also another part to consider. This other part is why would you say that someone is "exultant" instead of just elated? There's a difference between simplifying speech and using words you find in the dictionary to "spice up" your writing (read: make it sound more intellectual), and that's a problem a lot of newer writers tend to have. Like I said, the more academic you get (i.e., the more you move towards words that would make your work sound more like an academic discussion than a fanfiction) and the more pretentious you get, the more ridiculous you seem to other writers because it comes off as you trying to sound like you're intellectual. (There's an abundance of people in fandom who believe that the key to being a genius is sesquipedalian loquaciousness. And it gets awkward dealing with them, let alone trying to read their work, only to realize that if you take away the flowery language, the story doesn't really go anywhere and have overdramatic, brooding characters. That kind of writing alone gets associated with the kind of flowery language that we're talking about on a frequent level just because it happens so often. It doesn't really help that the narration itself ends up sounding unnatural because of the author's language choice. So in a sense, it's like script fic in that it has negative notions attached to its form, not so much because the individual work is bad but instead because it happens so frequently that a reader will be more likely to brace themselves than swallow what you're saying, unfortunately enough.) That isn't to say you need to use the same words over and over again. In fact, "elated" is a perfectly reasonable word to use. However, there's definitely a difference between that and a number of its lengthier synonyms, and there's a difference between what is and isn't going to be considered ridiculous and/or awkward.

    Of course, using a plethora of them in a short span is going to make things worse for you, but if you have the choice between describing someone as overjoyed and describing someone as ravished or rhapsodic, you may want to consider just going with overjoyed. Doubly so if the synonym you choose has horrendous alternate meanings. (Hello, ravished.)

    Point is, part of it is how many times you use flowery language. You're absolutely right in saying that. But there's also a bit of weight on which words you use, so to speak. Avoiding pretentiousness doesn't necessarily involve reducing your prose to basic words. It actually more involves writing what sounds natural to you. For a lot of people, academic/pretentious words don't sound natural (because "no one talks like that" -- as in, no one actually uses the words we're talking about in everyday language), and that's just one of the reasons why readers get so uncomfortable with seeing them pop up.
    This is what she taught me as well. Though I used words I knew, I haven't done it properly. Using synonyms that aren't very specific or what you are familiar with is fine. And if you try to look professional, that's showing off and proving that you write good if your classy writing is getting in the way is bad.


    Yeah you don't need to overexaggerate, but you have to both be understandable and not redundant in these synonyms. Be clear on what they mean.


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