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How Do You Imagine Words As You Write? (1 Viewer)

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TheMightyAz

Mentor
I've had this conversation elsewhere on here I think but can't remember where. When I think of words, and I mean any word, even conceptual words, I see movement, size, depth, colour etc. They're like living things, each with their own personalities and position. I'll give you an example to make this clearer:

Huge: This gives me the image of something that fills the screen. The edges are clearly defined, sharp.
Massive: This is so big the edges are not quite so well defined, blurry with no sense of a real edge. Almost too much to take in.
Vast: This is beyond an edge, beyond blurry even, leaking out into what cannot be seen.

How do you see words? Have you got some other relationship with them? Or are they just words to you?
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I've had this conversation elsewhere on here I think but can't remember where. When I think of words, and I mean any word, even conceptual words, I see movement, size, depth, colour etc. They're like living things, each with their own personalities and position. I'll give you an example to make this clearer:

Huge: This gives me the image of something that fills the screen. The edges are clearly defined, sharp.
Massive: This is so big the edges are not quite so well defined, blurry with no sense of a real edge. Almost too much to take in.
Vast: This is beyond an edge, beyond blurry even, leaking out into what cannot be seen.

How do you see words? Have you got some other relationship with them? Or are they just words to you?

I don't think ANY words are "just words". They're tools to make the reader see the same thing I see or hear when I imagine the scene. To that end, I minimize superlatives, because superlatives are normally trite. I checked, and the three words you highlighted do occur in my WJC (work just completed) five times between them.

You've read me harp on "amazing" ... currently the most useless word in the English language, but it's the latest in a long string of overworked superlatives. Go back to the first half of the 1900s, and the most overworked and useless superlative was "terrific".

When we discuss economy of words, I'd exclude replacing superlatives. Here's my replacement for "vast":

The ledge looked over a cavern with a diameter I might have measured in miles across ... and maybe as high. Nothing blocked the far end of the cavern from view, it was simply too far away. The atmosphere was hazy, which didn't help.

We're getting into "show don't tell" territory here. LOL (If you saw my most recent comment on that subject, you now realize I can argue both sides of a subject ... Forensic Debate experience). But the relationship isn't with particular words, it's with the best word. What word sells my thought to the reader? What word is the most description and evocative of what I see and feel? Most of them flow. Sometimes I spend a few minutes getting the right one.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I don't think ANY words are "just words". They're tools to make the reader see the same thing I see or hear when I imagine the scene. To that end, I minimize superlatives, because superlatives are normally trite. I checked, and the three words you highlighted do occur in my WJC (work just completed) five times between them.

You've read me harp on "amazing" ... currently the most useless word in the English language, but it's the latest in a long string of overworked superlatives. Go back to the first half of the 1900s, and the most overworked and useless superlative was "terrific".

When we discuss economy of words, I'd exclude replacing superlatives. Here's my replacement for "vast":



We're getting into "show don't tell" territory here. LOL (If you saw my most recent comment on that subject, you now realize I can argue both sides of a subject ... Forensic Debate experience). But the relationship isn't with particular words, it's with the best word. What word sells my thought to the reader? What word is the most description and evocative of what I see and feel? Most of them flow. Sometimes I spend a few minutes getting the right one.

So words to you are just words? For me, there's something beyond the definition, rather like different colours in a painting. Even conceptual words take on an image for me. The word 'sad' I wear as if they're clothes. Kind of superficial but still representative. The word 'melancholy' I feel deeper, as if they're my bones, my flesh. Conceptional words I tend to attribute to depth and width.

A perfect example of that is I was just critiquing a piece of work over in the workshop (the reason for this thread) and the word 'within' was used at the end of a sentence. I suggested changing it to 'therein'. The reason for that is because it was in relation to a pavement. I see 'within' deeper, in the centre of, whilst 'therein' is a little more vague and so closer to the surface. Still not 'upon' but close enough to the surface to actually get an idea the protag is looking at the path rather than beyond into its centre.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I'm pretty sure I said just the opposite in my opening sentence.

You said words are things to 'define' a scene for readers. Just words then. I see them as something different. I don't see them as just defining things, I see them as movement, depth, width, colour etc. They're actually 'things' in their own right. Objects that exist beyond their actually meaning that can be visualised. As in the three examples I gave.
 

-xXx-

Financial Supporter
You said words are things to 'define' a scene for readers. Just words then. I see them as something different. I don't see them as just defining things, I see them as movement, depth, width, colour etc. They're actually 'things' in their own right. Objects that exist beyond their actually meaning that can be visualised. As in the three examples I gave.

representative symbols
you process/experience/build your meaning set(s), your click-through-link(s)
see implies visualize as primary, but synthesize MIGHT apply

meanwhile, vranger reads clearly to me.
jussayin'
;)
 
There's a question: do words mean, or do words be? Either way, they're not 'just words,' but I'd agree there's distinction between something that defines a concept and something that embodies a concept.

Symbols, yes -- but what's a symbol? I've been having a bit of a philosophic crisis lately over what exactly metaphor is. How it's been explained to me in the past is: when, for example, Jesus says, "I am the gate for the sheep," he means that he is like a gate, that he performs a similar function as a gate, not that he is a gate. But then I think about it: in the Christian worldview, Jesus is a gate. He's not made of wood and standing in a field, but, in a spiritual sense, he is literally a gate. He is something that you must go through to get to something else. When I examine most metaphors and symbols, and when I examine the way I use them, I start to wonder if any are not in some sense literally true. I start to wonder if perhaps symbols are not tools for understanding but rather a kind of embodied form.

As another parallel, consider digits: is '2' just an arbitrary way to define a concept we see in matter, or is it another way to embody the spiritual (this word may not be applicable in this context but I'm still figuring this out) concept of 'two'? Are the digit '2,' the word 'two,' two apples, and my two hands all incarnations of the same thing? Objects, like AZ said? Or are two apples and two hands objects, while '2' and 'two' are something else, ontologically? I can't figure it out.

Practically speaking, whether words/symbols are objects or something else, whether metaphors are literally true or not, words are a precise science. It's like algebra, or a spell. Words exchange for/summon/(are?) very specific things. Always looking for the best word, like vranger said.

I disagree about 'Massive.' It's not blurry; it has a real edge. It's just a more organic shape, not sharp. It has, well, mass: it's thick and compounding and fleshy, I feel.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
AZ, it could be argued that you see them as "just words", as if they are a kind of object that floats around in their own right, for their own purpose. Whereas for others they are tools or a vehicle to take the reader on a journey.

When I write, I don't see words at all. I see images, pictures of people in settings. The words just flow as I write trying to keep up with, in the clearest way possible, my imagination. For example, two women meeting in a cafe. I see their physical appearance, right down to what shoes they are wearing and the checkered floor beneath them, I see their countenance, I hear them laughing over the murmur of other patrons, I smell the coffee, I taste the biscotti, I feel a cold rush of air when the door opens as others arrive. And then, as I write dialogue, I imagine what they are thinking, and the most clever way I can portray those thoughts in words. That is less visual and harder to describe, but I still don’t ‘see’ words.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
I don't think about it that way just like I don't think about each step when I'm walking. I'm 'walking' not 'stepping'. So I guess when I'm writing I'm kind of 'imaging' rather than 'wording'.

Unless I'm doing an editing pass where I'm specifically looking at the words and improving them. Even then I don't really notice myself thinking anything particular about a certain word other than whether it fits or not and whether it's a strong choice or not. I'm probably doing the same thing you're talking about but it's not a big part of my awareness.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Words are the brushstrokes of a painting of the scene, or the bricks that provide the structure of my stories. They fly out of my fingers as I type.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
There's a question: do words mean, or do words be? Either way, they're not 'just words,' but I'd agree there's distinction between something that defines a concept and something that embodies a concept.

Symbols, yes -- but what's a symbol? I've been having a bit of a philosophic crisis lately over what exactly metaphor is. How it's been explained to me in the past is: when, for example, Jesus says, "I am the gate for the sheep," he means that he is like a gate, that he performs a similar function as a gate, not that he is a gate. But then I think about it: in the Christian worldview, Jesus is a gate. He's not made of wood and standing in a field, but, in a spiritual sense, he is literally a gate. He is something that you must go through to get to something else. When I examine most metaphors and symbols, and when I examine the way I use them, I start to wonder if any are not in some sense literally true. I start to wonder if perhaps symbols are not tools for understanding but rather a kind of embodied form.

As another parallel, consider digits: is '2' just an arbitrary way to define a concept we see in matter, or is it another way to embody the spiritual (this word may not be applicable in this context but I'm still figuring this out) concept of 'two'? Are the digit '2,' the word 'two,' two apples, and my two hands all incarnations of the same thing? Objects, like AZ said? Or are two apples and two hands objects, while '2' and 'two' are something else, ontologically? I can't figure it out.

Practically speaking, whether words/symbols are objects or something else, whether metaphors are literally true or not, words are a precise science. It's like algebra, or a spell. Words exchange for/summon/(are?) very specific things. Always looking for the best word, like vranger said.

I disagree about 'Massive.' It's not blurry; it has a real edge. It's just a more organic shape, not sharp. It has, well, mass: it's thick and compounding and fleshy, I feel.

Now we're talking. So you do actually also see words as shapes, otherwise you wouldn't be able to disagree with my particular definition. 'It's just an organic shape, not sharp'. But isn't that similar to my definition at the end of the day? Beyond an edge, leaking out into what can't be seen? How do you see 'Huge'? I'd be interested to know! :)

edit: and I also want to point out, there's absolutely nothing negative about just seeing words as words!
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
Would a tattooed thug armed with a shotgun say Poot!

Right word, in the right place, at the the right time.
 

Bloggsworth

WF Veterans
There are words and words - Smell and fragrance, odour and scent are all biochemical reactions interpreted by the brain to mean completely different things; same chemical reaction, different emotional results.
 

clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
How unusual! I could have written Foxee's post above--as a friend says, "same difference"! When writing 'creatively' (for want of a better word) I am quite aware of what I'm doing, but the initial words that stare back at me from the screen somehow often "put themselves" up there. When I'm editing a client's work, however, the process is simpler . . .and more complex re poetry. When editing the poetry of someone else, I have to project outside myself and try to get within the apparent intent of the poet in addition to "standard" editing. That may seem incredibly presumptuous, but if the poet looks at the world from a very different stance than I do, the effort must be made. Usually contextually.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
Would a tattooed thug armed with a shotgun say Poot!.
Honestly, I would hope to find one that does because that would be hilarious.
. . .and more complex re poetry. When editing the poetry of someone else, I have to project outside myself and try to get within the apparent intent of the poet in addition to "standard" editing. That may seem incredibly presumptuous, but if the poet looks at the world from a very different stance than I do, the effort must be made. Usually contextually.
Clark, I've no idea how you manage this. It sounds incredibly difficult.
 

clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Sometimes it's difficult, sometimes easy. I do not, however, know how else to edit someone else's poetry. Let's say I'm editing a piece that is deeply into the corruption of the American sense of individual liberty. All in free verse. Suddenly there's a fifteen-line paragraph of expository prose. No transition, no rhythm, no music, no 'literary devices', classic paragraph development but ​no discernible thematic connection to the free verse that precedes and follows this section. I can make an eloquent marginal note ---"whaddaf___"?---which is sometimes a fancy way of saying, 'I would never write this in this way. I don't understand, so obviously this prose section is NOT working." The nuts and bolts of editing is, at the basement level, good proofreading, then going to the main floor, syntax, word choice, consistency and congruity, but in some poems dealing with issues anathema to the Editor's personal beliefs and sense of aesthetics, Editors have to get outside their own skin somehow, and look at the poem 'from an other's eyes'. I once edited a deeply Christian chap book written by a
fellow who didn't know squat about the Bible. His 'unique' version of the Christian story was . . .unique. I thought his thinking was addled, his interpretation of major Biblical events often sophomoric . . .BUT he had an intuitive grasp of Poetics that swung from crazy-breathtaking to nutso-shocking to isolated images to die for. I did have to work hard to keep from imposing my sense of things and my sense of poetics on his work. That is the toughest part of editing.
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
He had massive strength.

He hoisted me to my feet like an empty duffel bag.

I find that people revive my prose well when I work from an image first and use words second. The more tactile I can be, the better. This is called rendering, and I suck at it in the grand scheme of things.

If you suck at it like me, try going out and finding random stuff to render.

The other day, I saw a grandfather clock, about seven feet tall, with a second clock audibly counting seconds on its face. It had no pendulum

The hour and minute hands pointed like old, fancy key-handles. Above them, the clock had a small, perfectly circular girl’s face with a skin tone the color of cherubs. Paintings of woodpeckers, bluebirds, and robins nestled beneath a wooden seashell. Two wooden Grecian-style pillars surrounded it all.

Three brass spires protruded above the clock, first as round bulbs, then as narrow points.

And the fucking sound! When it struck two I froze in terror in the parlor. Who in their right mind would have that in their house? George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, apparently.


That's wasn't so hard! (True story by the way.)

I don't recommend you describe a clock in that level of detail unless the story revolves around it. But if it does, you MUST.

Ironically in this case, I see words in many cases as a substitute for photographs.
 
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