There’s a certain school of thought when teaching writing that says to write exactly what you mean. They often want you to write as simply as possible. You’ll see a lot of “Sally said,” and “He is tall, with long, black hair and bright, green eyes.”
There’s another school of thought when teaching writing that says to write what you mean, but in minute detail. This often results in students keeping thesaurus handy, because they learn that the instructors want you to avoid writing as simply as possible. Now, you will see “Sally expound broadly,” and “He stands higher than all others, his extensive, ebony locks offset by brilliant, peridot eyes.”
The problem with the latter is sometimes the synonyms don’t have the same meaning, exactly, as the word the student started with. Extensive can mean more than long. It often means “large” or “thorough”. And brilliant can mean “bright,” but it can also mean “very smart.” It depends on context. And sometimes, if the context isn’t there, the results are very silly.
Now, there are people who disagree on both sides. Some vehemently.
I happen to think that a nice blend is more natural, but I was raised by a librarian and a speech/theater professor. My natural speaking pattern is extremely odd, in comparison to some people. For others, it’s not so much.
I personally prefer reading things that are a blend of simple (especially if that simplicity underscores a mood or moment that needs basic truths to be told) and somewhat flowery language with less-used words (because I love words, and if later I want to go to a dictionary and look up something that made sense in context, but that I want to learn the finer nuances of after the story has been read through, I call that a win). I don’t particularly enjoy overly frilly books with a lot of gingerbread trim words, nor do I love overly basic books. Both are hard for me to sink my teeth into, for completely different reasons. If I’m constantly wondering about authorial intent, then I’m not really enjoying the story.
I hope, as I try writing fiction and other pieces more, that I succeed in a balance. I think my blogs do already, but it’s always hard to be sure from the inside.
I agree with him about the elitism, by the way. I can be elitist about some things with language, but this isn’t one of them. The only reason I can see for writing exclusively simply or exclusively using “expressive” words is to achieve a particular tone. (And frankly, as a tongue-in-cheek joke – a parody for instance, would be perfect.)
Fingers drift lightly over keys –
individual letters, black and white, or metal attached to levers to release air –
never pressing too hard, or too lightly, just enough.
Generous with time, speed, caresses, and
eager to find the exact combination that will
release the words, notes, music to
sooth and bring solace.
The other day, when driving, I thought “self, this train of thought where you are comparing X with Y would be perfect for a blog” and self agreed, and promptly shelved the remaining thoughts that were becoming an essay (mostly because driving).
So, the problem now is that I have no idea what essay I was thinking.
I’m pretty sure it was social justice-y. And saying that, I wonder if it was the comparison/contrast of my experience with Facebook vs Twitter vs Tumblr.
I think about various things, often driving or in the shower, and when I start thinking in paragraphs and how to revise sentences so that they are more concise and still expressive, that’s often how I come up with draft idea for essays (or sometimes stories/etc). The problem is, if I’m not near a computer or able to get near a computer before my brain is off on a different topic (say grocery shopping and making sure I didn’t forget anything on the list on my phone because what are we having for dinner this week again?) I often forget what I was going to write about.
How about you? How do you decide what to write about?
Moon beams glitter
over crescent shaped dreams
of a muse left bemused
by a world deaf
to her sweet murmurings.
Hero shaped stars
flicker in deep dark skies
hoping for tales anew.
While down below
so many weary souls
merely survive their days
too numb to see
ev’ry day miracles.
And so she sleeps
restless in her dreaming
lost to those souls searching
until they too
find rest and renewal.
(reblogging here so I have it collected here as well – originally published on Tumblr 11/19/14)
While I agree with the poster that it is good to call a spade a spade, I also think that using the word “troll” as both a noun and a verb, from a linguistic point of view, packs a whole lot of nuance into what is happening that calling someone a mere “harasser” (or most of those other specific terms) does not.
A troll is indeed, as stated by the OP, a monster that menaces whereas these are humans committing monstrous acts. But I think the thing being tossed aside in favor of clarifying speech is that many of these acts, especially when on the internet, are committed in a troll-like manner. They happen from below (where the comment section resides), they happen unseen to many (either because the perpetrator is choosing an anonymous feature or using a handle and userpic/icon that does not reflect their physical name/appearance in the real world) and they are very hard to avoid (sometimes even with help from those who should and could help).
In fantasy (which, quite a few of the old fairy tales were once intended as exercises in what my mom used to like to call the Consequences Game), a troll is what happens to young naive characters who are doing something they ought not be doing. They are not following the path. They are not going to school. They maybe are trying to do something good, but are overtaken by someone who is presenting themselves as in power and therefore entitled to a toll or fee to permit the hero to continue on their way.
This is exactly what many commenters who heap abuse (rape threats, death threats, generalized abuse) are doing. They believe they are entitled to their view and that their view is correct, so they are going to exact a toll of some kind from the person they are attacking. In many cases, they seem to feed off of the mental anguish, rather than wanting tasty goat flesh or coin.
Yes. We should call a racist a racist and a homophobe a homophobe. Should we excise the term “troll” from these self-same people (because yes, they are people) just because their skin isn’t green and warted and they don’t have exaggerated tusks as some trolls are shown? No. I think it adds a level of understanding to how horrible they are.
(As an aside, some of the early drawings of trolls in fairy-tale collections I remember the clearest are the ones that looked the most like angry white men wearing a loin cloth. They were black and white sketches; until the text told me they were green, I didn’t know they weren’t men.)