Allo! Did you have as fantastic a summer as I did? Probably not. My summer is what I like to call “fucking glorious”. I was more than a little disappointed when I realized it was over and I have to go back to being an adult with responsibilities and gross stuff like that. But hey, there’s still rum, right? Silver lining.
The semester for me started yesterday. It’s going to be a long one. I can tell.
The first day of workshops is always the most boring. I constantly consider skipping them. I don’t because a lot of the time the workshopping schedule is decided and never want to be stuck on a terrible day (in this case, she made up the schedule which was annoying because now I have to go through the hassle of changing one of my days since I won’t be there). Inevitably, your professor is going to make you go around the room, say your name (Yermama), why you’re there (because I had nothing better to do with $1500?), and what you like to write (fanfiction. Always fanfiction). Sometimes you’ll get asked what you’re working on (An EPIC Doctor Who fanfic in which I’m captured by Daleks and the Doctor has to save me. He doesn’t know that I’m secretly his wife from another dimension) and/or what you like to read (Playboy magazine). If you’re in a program, as I am, then you’re going to end up hearing the same shit over and over again about your classmates.
Workshop first days are rapidly becoming a study on what I’m not going to do on my first days when I become a professor. Because no one cares what you’re saying, we’re busy thinking about what we’re going to say. Or we’re thinking about what we have to do when we finally get to leave. Melissa Bank did it the best I think, she had us email a mini-biography of sorts about ourselves to her before class, because this “go around and tell everyone about yourself” business is really just for the teacher. And for the shallow people who like to talk about themselves. The rest of us either want to learn something or go home. Or not travel 2 hours by train just to hear that Joey Kissass loves the works of Pretentious Author Mcgee.
I’m going to try hard in this class, I promise. I try hard in all of my classes. I’m not as slackery as my laziness would suggest.
Anyway, out of all the things we talked about in class (besides my not being able to use my thesis for workshopping and having to do an in class exercise), one thing I noted in particular was word choice. Being quite a fucking wordsmith my damn self, I think wit mah headstuff this was an interesting topic.
At the time, the professor was picking on a dude who used the word elegant in his scene. A word I’m pretty sure no one else paid attention to aside from her. And when she made him read the sentence again, it, again, didn’t strike me as anything special.
But that was the point. What does elegant mean? What do you picture when someone says “Jackie had a rope elegantly tied around her neck”? Nothing remarkable. I just see a woman with a rope around her neck. Telling me it’s elegant, isn’t exactly telling me anything. Professy Wessy also said the same goes for words like beautiful, handsome, etc. They’re not helping the reader picture your scene. Because beauty, elegance, and the like mean different things to everyone. For example, I think this vampire is hot. Others think this vampire is hot.
There’s no accounting for taste.
So yeah, choose your words wisely. I mean, I know it’s difficult. I just did a search on my complete thesis document (over 300 pages, what whaaat) and I used the word beautiful 17 times. Granted some of it may have been within dialogue, and my professor said you can say anything in dialogue. Then again she told someone that she didn’t think one of the characters in her scene would say a particular thing. After hearing the character say one line before that. And not knowing anything about the character. But whatever. Say what you want! In dialogue! Exclamation point!
My professor says those words are lazy.
(She also said pop culture references are lazy. I, for one, like pop culture references. Yeah, it dates the material or whatever, but I like to feel like my characters are in a real world. Pop culture is in the real world. So, take that as you will. I’m not a bestselling author, she apparently is. Who you gonna believe?)
I don’t think those words are lazy, I think they’re a product of you either writing too fast and not knowing exactly what you want to say or you have an image in your mind that is difficult to translate onto paper. I’m completely terrible at setting up scenes (and, somehow through 4 semesters of the MFA program, I have yet to get better at it) so I know that images can be hard to write. D$GJ is the master of imagery, talk to him if you want help. He might not help you, though. He’s busy.
I absolutely hate it when published authors say something is lazy like the moment they got published, writing became a cakewalk. I get it, you’re hot shit, we should emulate you. Whatev. There’s so much to think about when you’re writing and also want to be published, it’s very easy for a word like beautiful to slip through. And, I don’t know, I’ve seen plenty of books become NYT bestsellers with it in there. Hell, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Beautiful and Damned and I’m pretty sure he’s one of the best authors ever. But I’m biased.
So go forth, beautiful writers! Create handsome works of elegance!
And stay away from vampires.