Monday, February 1, 2016

Thesaurus Abuse!

There’s nothing wrong with using a thesaurus. All the cool people do it. Genuinely, you could adopt it without exception and at no time drive erroneous*.

Unless, of course, you use it on every other word and just grab the first result you see (i.e. that glorious sentence in the previous paragraph). Sometimes when I’m reading, it feels like the author picked up the thesaurus and went down the alphabetical list of word alternatives.

When I hear people complain that such-and-such published author “just used the thesaurus for every other word”, I laugh to myself. I use the thesaurus all the time – but that’s not really what readers are complaining about. We don’t mind new words, we mind words that don’t make any sense. It’s easy to be lazy and choose the first synonym that sounds good, instead of doing our research on an unfamiliar word (or rewriting the sentence altogether). My French students used to do this ALL THE TIME, and it was both hilarious and frustrating.

I’ll be the first to admit it: words are hard. Wording is hard. And writing a story without re-using the same stock words ad infinitum? Haaaaard. Seriously. Some words and phrases don’t seem to have good synonyms. Take “sigh” for example. Roget’s thesaurus gives me “cry, exhale, gasp, groan, howl” as the first/ most relevant choices. All right. So, if I’m trying to avoid the word sigh, my characters can just “exhale”? Mehhh.

Everyone exhales, unless you’re writing paranormal. “Groan” could work if you want an undercurrent of frustration, or “gasp” for surprise. In the end, though, “sigh” has me stumped. This might mean I need new rules for when a character's allowed to sigh. Or there's going to be a lot more forceful exhaling. 

Oh, yeah. That'll work ;)

Michelle ate junk food all weekend and doesn't even feel bad about it. She also cut over 5,000 words from her work-in-progress in order to finish a major rewrite. WOOOO!!! 

*Writing this sentence was physically painful. 

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