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What is experimental phrasing? (1 Viewer)

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bennylava

Senior Member
I've posted up a couple of paragraphs from my book here and there, and one of the replies said that I need to use more "experimental phrasing". So I wanted to stop by over here and ask what you guys think it means. I've never heard of this before, but I suspect I know it under a different name. But I'm not sure what that name is. Any explanation would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
 

Zlodesk

Senior Member
Maybe it's implying that you should use less obvious vocabulary? Spice up word choice and separate from your typical design and syntax? That's only a thought, as without the piece referenced, it's hard to judge the meaning.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Anyone who is advising "experimental phrasing" without taking taking your sample and providing an example is "all hat and no cow".

You might be shocked to find out that my first introduction to the phrase "all hat and no cow" was in a Hallmark Christmas movie, where I have no doubt the screenwriter lifted it from someone who lifted it from someone who lifted it from someone who originally engaged in experimental phrasing. Every cliche has a point of origin.

I think the term "experimental phrasing" is horrible. What you're looking for is originality, which is uniquely you, and has nothing to do with "experimental". If you're a good writer, you're more than likely a good conversationalist. You say things around your friends they think are cool. That's the same originality you want to express in your writing.
 

natifix

Senior Member
phrasing
An exclamation and/or warning given to another over the unintended sexual innuendo of an otherwise innocent phrase.

Commonly heard by various characters on the animated FX television series, "Archer".
"You wanna play me hard?" "Phrasing." "Well, then you better nut up!" "Phrasing!" "I've swallowed just about as much as I can take from you!" "PHRASING!!"
by Fortyseven April 12, 2013



https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=phrasing


This is a good example. They say it better than I can.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
I don't know what he means by it either, but it must be some comfort to you to know you are not alone, no-one seems to be certain.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
I took it to possibly mean something about avoiding clichés. If someone is writing a lot of clichés, it might be appropriate to suggest using other ways of writing - hence 'experimental phrasing'. However, it does seem like a phrase designed by the critic to make themself sound good, especially as 'use far fewer clichés' would have sufficed.
An example: I recall a seminar where someone was reading samples of their novel about a boxer. The description of the boxers fist was 'like a baby's skull'. That seems to be an unusual simile to me, but I found it effective.
 

bennylava

Senior Member
Here's an excerpt from chapter 1 of my self help book. He said this part needed more experimental phrasing. The book is aimed at a general audience, and it's written to help people who hate their jobs transition into making their living in a way they find much more fulfilling. Primarily through entrepreneurship, as this is what allows them to do meaningful work that they enjoy. We're changing their work life from "suck" to "enjoyment". So here it is:

My goal is to convince you to break the cycle of working for others, being unhappy, and earning low pay. But how? "How" takes time, but it's not something I'd call difficult. I can help you with a lot of this, but technically, "how" is something you have to figure out. The reason for that is because I can't know what you love to do. But somewhere, deep down in your unconscious mind, you know what you'd rather be doing with your life. Or maybe it's not that deep, and you're someone who already knows what you'd rather be working at. Maybe you've just been procrastinating for a long time. If you don't pursue this thing you love, it will eat away at your soul. I believe that this is a contributor to many of the depression cases we have these days. It certainly was for me.

I'll use myself as an example here. For me, the thing I should have been doing for all those years turned out to be writing. But I couldn't admit to myself that it was the right thing to do. It wasn't until my mid 30's that I realized I wanted to be a writer. We all got exposed to writing in school, and I remember that it seemed to be shunned by the other students. They didn't appear to like doing it. Even back then, I enjoyed it, but it seemed tedious because I was only a kid with a lot to learn. It also seemed like something that wouldn't earn me a living. Neither of those things is true. What one person finds to be dull, another person delights in. And the money you make depends on how much time and effort you're prepared to put into it. How much you're willing to hone your skill.


So what do you do if you have trouble admitting your goal to yourself? Or to others? What I'm about to say next might seem ridiculous to some people, but we all have our own inner struggles. Here's the one I had to overcome once I decided to write: I didn't want anyone I knew to read my writing. It felt like some kind of violation of my privacy. When someone reads your work, it's almost as though they get a window into your soul. In some sense, they do. When someone is reading a book you wrote, you're not having a conversation. You can't defend yourself line by line, point by point as though you were talking to them. You just have to let them see what you really think, and know how you really feel. After they've read your book, they know you a little better. You might even say that they know you better than you know them.


But I just needed to get over myself. I was never going to get anywhere worrying about what people would think of me. It was the fear of judgment that I had to overcome. I decided that I was taking this whole 'personal privacy' thing a little too far. A writer has to open themselves up to the world and let the chips fall where they may. The point is that when you're figuring out what you want to do with your life (if you don't already know), you may realize it's something you're a little uncomfortable with. This could be the reason you never started doing it full time. We've all got our personal preferences, but you can't let them hold you back.


In the above paragraphs, use experimental phrasing wherever you can. Describe some of the judgment in a humorous way. Maybe quote some of the things you heard and write sarcastic replies to them that you wish you’d said, but didn’t.

That sounds fine I guess, but I didn't hear any jeers or judgments. Primarily cause I haven't told anyone but my wife that I'm writing a book. Due to that whole personal privacy thing I mentioned. I don't have any sarcastic remarks or witty comebacks that I wish I'd said. I don't think my friends/family would've have said anything like that to me anyway. I also have this bias against anything that sounds like fluff or filler. I want my book to be very practical. I don't want to waste any of the reader's time. I want it short, sweet, and to the point. (it's 32k words)

I've made sure it's entertaining with little examples and stories and a bit of humor, but I don't want to make anything up. It's all supposed to be very real. Cause I want to really help them get out of their crappy job.
 
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bennylava

Senior Member
Not sure what happened but I went to edit my last post and it disappeared. It had the excerpt from chapter 1 that "Needed more experimental phrasing". I wanted to change the font size so it conformed to the rest of the posts in this thread.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Okay, I've been obtuse on this because it's such an obnoxiously dumb term I don't want to admit I feel like I sorta know what it means...but I believe I do.

Experimental phrasing means...phrasing things experimentally. It's not necessarily about unusual similes, etc. It also isn't necessarily about humor, though it sounds like OP's critic did have that in mind, but really it's about voice and subverting the expectations. Essentially, it's about making a 'book about X' not read like an expected 'book about X'

Since we're doing non-fiction stuff, here's a description of Durham, UK from the Lonely Planet travel guide.

England's most beautiful Romanesque cathedral, a huge castle, and, surrounding them both, a cobweb of hilly, cobbled streets – filled with upper-crust students attending England's third university of choice (after Oxford and Cambridge) during term time – make Durham an ideal day trip from Newcastle or overnight stop.

This is written fine, but it's fairly generic. It reads like just about any travel guide, right? And that's fine...if you're writing just any travel guide. In this case, it seems the OP's critic was perhaps signalling that the OP's book read a little too much like a self-help book. It's full of information but feels rather stodgy, rather preachy, rather dry. Maybe even a little...patronizing?

Here's a description of Durham, UK by Bill Bryson from his travel book 'Notes From A Small Island'

I got off at Durham, intending to poke around the cathedral for an hour or so and fell in love with it instantly in a serious way. Why, it’s wonderful – a perfect little city – and I kept thinking: ‘Why did no-one tell me about this?’ I knew, of course, that it had a fine Norman cathedral but had no idea that it was so splendid. I couldn’t believe that not once in twenty years had anyone said to me, ‘You’ve never been to Durham? Good God, man, you must go at once! Please – take my car.’ I had read countless travel pieces in Sunday papers about weekends away at York, Canterbury, Norwich, even Lincoln, but I couldn’t remember reading a single one about Durham, and when I asked friends about it, I found hardly anyone who had ever been there. So let me say it now: if you have never been to Durham, go at once. Take my car. It’s wonderful.

Bryson's excerpt is an example of experimental phrasing in the context of travel by evoking the motif of 'take my car, please' as a device and essentially breaking the fourth wall by not talking simply about the subject matter but about the effect the subject matter has on him as a person. He accomplishes this through 'experimentally phrasing' the description, creating an internal dialogue, humor through hyperbole, etc.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
Not sure what happened but I went to edit my last post and it disappeared. It had the excerpt from chapter 1 that "Needed more experimental phrasing". I wanted to change the font size so it conformed to the rest of the posts in this thread.

Not sure why you are confused, it is still there, post No. 16 directly above your last post, maybe you had not realised the thread had moved on to a second page?
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Quite honestly, the text looks okay to me. It's a non-fiction book, so what does this critiquer want? To dazzle the self-help reader with incredible turns of evocative cliche-avoidant prose? I mean, if you can tart it up then do so, but if not, is it so bad? The subject warrants clarity and accessibility (which you give it) rather than high art and drama.

I would say carry on as you are. It's readable and also I think quite relevant. I can certainly relate to its key points.
 
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