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Need help compiling a list of verbs and other words so make better prose.

Discussion in 'Research' started by Ewolf20, May 22, 2018.

  1. Ewolf20

    Ewolf20 Minstrel

    I have a problem, my prose feels lacking. the reason it feels so lacking is my very small vocabulary. not too small as that would feel contrived or indignant. but i have tried googling it but nothing of interest shows up and most are just things for resumes. i'm not here for resumes, i'm here to write screenplays and short stories.

    so if any of you guys have any words to share with me, please do. i seriously need it.
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    The only way I've found to expand a vocabulary, is to read... Read anything. in all different forms.
    When I read and am enjoying it. I try to work out why I'm liking it. Is it the pace? The phrases? The descriptions? The words?
    When I get to something I don't understand , I look it up. The first time I read HP Lovecraft, I wondered why all the buildings had one eye. He kept calling them "cyclopean". He meant "denoting a type of ancient masonry made with massive irregular blocks" and not "of or resembling a Cyclops". I had to learn that.
    jacksimmons, ShadeZ, Malik and 3 others like this.
  3. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Yes, Lovecraft also taught me what "charnel" means. At first I kept associating it with "carnal" and was very confused. :confused:

    Ebooks are especially convenient for learning new words since if you come across something you don't know you can just tap on it to get a definition.

    Ewolf, I found it fairly easy to just google "list of verbs for writing" and "list of adjectives for writing" and found plenty of sources. Here's a couple I found:


    Descriptive Words List of Adjectives Word Reference |

    And a website I really like which has tons of archaic and obscure words (great for SFF!) is:

    The Phrontistery: Obscure Words and Vocabulary Resources
    Ewolf20 and CupofJoe like this.
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    That last link is a real find!
    Thank you.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Another reason to read rather than to list: if you list, you are merely adding words to your List of Words. Only by reading will you discover the various ways in which a word colors the words around it. It's not the word you're after, it's the usage of the word.

    To draw a parallel with music: you can say you need a list of notes because you want to write a song and, yes, you do need to know the notes (those of you who play be ear, please sit down for the duration of this post). But knowing the notes isn't enough. You bend notes, combine notes, play notes in harmony and in disharmony. It's the usage that matters. And the only way you get that is by listening to music.

    Both methods--listening to music, reading books--demands hundreds and thousands of hours. The only short cut is to start now rather than tomorrow.
    Malik and summondice like this.
  6. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    From Stephen King's On Writing:

    Some writers have enormous vocabularies.... Other writers use smaller, simpler vocabularies. Put your vocabulary on the top shelf of your toolbox, and don't make any conscious effort to improve it... One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because your maybe a little ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.

    He goes on to suggest that your vocabulary will improve the more you read/write, and that spending too much time messing around with fancy vocabulary will destroy the clarity of what you are trying to say. IMO this is fantastic advice and has made my own writing much more "real" and "true" and less self-indulgent and showy.
    summondice and CupofJoe like this.
  7. Ewolf20

    Ewolf20 Minstrel

    thanks actually. maybe there's nothing wrong with having a small vocab....unless your trying to describe what a council room in a hollow tree looks like...even then it's gonna be simple words.
  8. summondice

    summondice Scribe

    Sorry to revive a dead thread, but I wanted to add another voice to Heliotrope's response. You are absolutely ok to have a small vocabulary and, I'll be completely honest, part of how I improved both my writing and my vocabulary growing up was by simply using a thesaurus. What you *shouldn't* do is "plug-and-play" words from a thesaurus. You should also have a dictionary handy to look up those you don't know, and be sure you understand some of the nuances of words you decide to use.

    Even better use of a thesaurus, however, is simply to remind yourself how many words you *do* know. I think that if you started using a thesaurus while writing that you would find that you know more than you realize, and by playing with the words you do know in sentences, and playing with sentence structure to help different words make sense, you'll also improve as a writer overall.

    In editing, it's also a usual "word to the wise" to not use an obtuse word where simple language would work just as well, so, again, having a limited vocabulary is ok :) In other words: Don't sweat the small stuff ;) (eehee hee hee hee hee. I couldn't help it.)
  9. ShadeZ

    ShadeZ Maester

    Another thing I like to do is if I'm writing a sentance where I know one topic will be stressed I Google synonyms to mix it up a bit example instead of angry I can go with furious, raging, wrathful, vengeful, murderous, and so on.
  10. Malik

    Malik Auror

    A brilliant, perfect parallel. Bravo.

    OP, I've said it before on here: it took me 30 years to become an overnight success.

    I started writing my very first novel when I was a teenager. I've been reading 5-10 books a week since I was in knee pants. I'm just now finding my voice, working on the third draft of my twelfth finished novel (two published because the others were crap).

    You may not take as long. I have never discounted the possibility that I chose a craft for which I have no innate gift, and that I've only made it this far through leadfooted optimism and teeth-grinding determination. But voice takes time. Read. Study. Read more. Write lots. It'll come. "One does not fly into flying."
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    >I have never discounted the possibility that I chose a craft for which I have no innate gift
    You be doin' ok on that score, amigo. But the point is well taken. We none of us know if we are truly cut out for this. It's just that some of us don't know when to cut it out. Mine is more along the lines of chuckle-headed optimism and a determination that shades more toward unbreakable habit.

    Is this still helping with the verbs? Oh, wait, here's one: reverberate. Always glad to help. <g>
    Malik likes this.
  12. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    The opposite of deverberate?
  13. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Hey DJ, turn down the deverb!

    Come to think of it, I am reading James Joyce's Ulysses, wherein he deverbs many a sentence.

    Oh good grief.
    Svrtnsse likes this.
  14. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Just a heads up that this one is another necro. That's fine, just be aware.
    Malik likes this.
  15. KaeSeven7

    KaeSeven7 Dreamer

    If google is not being too helpful, I'd continue writing for a start (don't lose the pace of your writing due to one word).

    However, I try to think outside the box. Sometimes I end up using those words in my everyday language where the definitely don't fit. For example, I would use the word 'intoxicate' for describing 'crowding' or 'unforgettable' thoughts - intoxicating thoughts - or 'delirious thoughts', 'enveloping thoughts', or using the description of a marionette or puppet if the thoughts feel out of my control. A heavy atmosphere could feel like smog, or cement in your lungs, or like being wrapped in fabric just tightly enough to be uncomfortable. If the scenery is bleak, it could be 'monochrome', 'melancholy', 'depressive', 'veiled', 'hushed', 'limp', 'abandoned', or 'silenced'.

    These are by no means impressive or unique descriptions, they are just from the top of my head, but thinking about what you're trying to explain and how you would explain it if you couldn't use certain words can help with what you need - or at least help with new words for another google search!

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