12.11: Diction

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley

Let’s talk about word choice. And when we say “let’s” we mean “we’re going to talk to you about it. You don’t actually get to talk back.” So maybe “let’s” wasn’t the best of the possible openers.

Our discussion covers what we want to say, how specific we need to be, and what we want to evoke in the reader. Sometimes the wrong word is the right one, and the right word is the wrong one.

 

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Exercise 1: Take some dialog you’ve written recently. Replace the dialog with dialog that uses completely different words (except for articles, prepositions, and names.)

Exercise 2:  Write a scene in sentences no longer than seven words, then rewrite it in a single long sentence.

Sins of Empire by Brian McCellan

12 thoughts on “12.11: Diction”

  1. Hi guys!
    I loooooove this season. Absolutely amazing. Love the new voices, love the subjects, love the discussions.
    Now I have a question (of course).
    English is not my mother language (I guess I could’ve posted it last week, but oh well). I read and talk in English a lot, but I find it difficult to express myself as good as I now I do in my own language when I write. I guess that’s might be a matter of practice (or lack of self confidence because so far no English-speaker read my stuff), but sometimes, for example, I simply don’t know if there’s a different, more accurate, word for what I want to say. Problem 2, it takes time. Whether I write in my language and then translate it (which is a nightmare. I’d rather translate from English than to English), or if I just write a lot in English hoping to get better. Plus, I MUST have someone to go over it all.
    So: should I write in English or my native tongue? Where my chances are better (publishing wise)? Is my foreign prose style an advantage or more of a disadvantage and I need to be extra careful about it? (last week @rami talked about ideas and perspective. I’m talking about prose, sentences and rhythm specifically.)
    I should mention that I love precise and a bit lyrical prose in my writing and that I have a rhythm that calls too much attention to itself if the words aren’t the right ones.
    Thanks again! Hope for help 🙂 it has been bothering me for a long time now…
    So: should I wright in English or my native tongue? Where my chances are better (publishing wise)? Is my foreign style an advantage or more of a disadvantage and I need to be extra careful about it?
    I should mention that I love precise and a bit lyrical prose in my writing and that I have a rhythm that calls too much attention to itself if the words aren’t the right ones.
    Thanks again! Hope for help 🙂 it has been bothering me for a long time now…

    1. ade, I’m not exactly qualified to give you answers, but I’ll give it a shot.

      I think which language you write in would depend on what the market is like for your native tongue for this kind of story. Would your linguistic community be interested in reading your book? If yes, then you might want to write it so that they can read it in its most authentic version (and if translation is that difficult for you, you can always pay someone else to do it and then you adjust the translation as needed). If your book is something that English readers would be more interested in, then it might be better to focus on giving them the best experience. I think that publishing (at least in the US–I don’t know much about anywhere else) right now is quite open to the idea of including voices that we haven’t heard before, so go ahead and flaunt your “foreign” style and use what you’re good at to your advantage.

  2. A rose? Yes, the Chic Four, Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley, talked about roses, and lots of other words, too, as they delved into the question of “How do you pick the right word?” If you’re looking for help, you’re in the right place. Lots of tips and ideas to help you pick just the right word, not too simple, not too specific, but just right! So… read the transcript, available now in the archives or over here

    http://wetranscripts.livejournal.com/127810.html

    And find out how to pick le mot juste.

  3. Ohhh my goodness, I’ve been binging on all 12 seasons of this podcast for the past several months, and I have learned SO MUCH. Especially since I severely slacked off on my writing during the fall, Writing Excuses has proved highly inspirational. Except I was too busy listening to actually write much… Oops. But now that I’ve finally caught up, I guess I’m officially out of excuses? Anyway, thanks for the fantastic podcast, you guys.

  4. Mostly unrelated question here but, was the “Hero of a Thousand Faces” can of worms ever actually opened in a ‘cast? i think that was a can of worms from season two or three and I’m curious to know your guys’ thoughts and opinions on it? If it is not out yet though then maybe consider it for later in season 12 or 13? 🙂

  5. Can I suggest a book of the week for this topic? Mark Forsyth’s ‘The Elements of Eloquence’ is amazing for teaching the patterns in the English language that make phrases sound beautiful and/or memorable. Perfect for practicing producing pretty, pithy prose.

    (Or just annoying Mary and co with a tongue-twister.)

  6. Wow, just found out this thing existed and glad I did. Interesting conversation, good insight. I think I’ll be running through the last 12 seasons for the foreseeable future. I’m a huge fan of Brandons and working on my English degree, this is a great resource!

  7. This podcast brings to mind Inigo Montoya’s oft-quoted line from The Princess Bride:
    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
    Or possibly Flynn Rider’s less well-known exchange with Rapunzel in Tangled, regarding her pet chameleon…
    Flynn: Frankly, I’m too scared to ask about the frog.
    Rapunzel: Chameleon.
    Flynn: (with a dismissive wave of his hand) Nuance.

    Fortunately for your listeners, y’all understand nuance better than Flynn. Thanks for an excellent podcast!

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