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20 November 2007 @ 05:20 pm
Purple Prose All Through My Brain  
Just when you thought there couldn't be a writing challenge any more wanky than NaNoWriMo1, Answers.com (who?) bring you The Answers.com Creative Writing Challenge.

The object of this little excercise is to write a piece of creative writing that includes their list of words and phrases (one phrase, actually). Sounds pretty standard, until you get into the words they want you to use:

"a lick and a promise"

Sounds tittilating, and I'm sure I could use the phrase to good effect, no problem so far.

contraband
halva
serendipity
zeitgeist

Okay, getting a little wordy, but these are all relatively familiar words. It would be a massive struggle to get these into a poem, but I don't think I'd have too much trouble with a short story.

ataraxia
mantic
praxis
sapid
semilunar

Huh? None of these are words I have ever used, and I had to look up the meanings of all of them (although I had some idea what semilunar might mean). Now, I suspect this is half the point of the contest, since you have to make these words hyperlinks in your story that point to the Answers.com page for each word (the site seems to be a kind of highly commercialised online dictionary).

Using big words in your writing, so that it looks like you had the thesaurus open while you wrote, is a clear sign of an abject amateur. It's bad writing, plain and simple, because if you have to look up the words to write it, sure as shit your reader will have to look them up to read them. And, of course, the reader is just as likely to say "fuck it" and go read something else. So, having a writing competition that forces its contestants to use horribly obscure words is sheer stupidity, and anyone that thinks that kind of writing is clever deserves not to have anything they write ever read all the way through.


1. To be honest, I don't really give a toss one way or the other about NaNo (other than thinking it hilarious that the creators were short-sighted enough to use the term "National" and stubborn enough to refuse to change it when it became obvious it had gone global). Anyway, if you want to write only during one month of the year and call yourself a writer, go ahead. You probably deserve the title more than I do, anyway.
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Prisspr1ss on November 20th, 2007 07:24 am (UTC)
Agreed
As Mark Twain said: use the right word, and not its second cousin.
Robet Éivaayvah on November 20th, 2007 08:33 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure the answers.com encyclopedia is just ripped off Wikipedia. So it appears to be commercialised, unoriginal content...
Some guy called Lap?harkon on November 21st, 2007 02:28 am (UTC)
I dunno, you could write a fairly humourous piece as a statement against this unnatural wordiness by having a single character use them all, oft incorrectly as a form of comic relief. The criminal duo where that argues concepts way beyond their understanding has always been a trope that I enjoy.
Jacobyak_boy on November 21st, 2007 02:34 am (UTC)
Like Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar in Neverwhere.

Yes, there are probably countless ways you could make a story that works using their words, but I still think the kind of writing that they are going to encourage doesn't need encouraging.
Some guy called Lap?harkon on November 21st, 2007 02:37 am (UTC)
Since I'm fairly ignorant of the works of Mr Gaiman, I was more thinking the two guys from Sin City. And pulp noir is definitely a genre we need to encourage :)
Jacobyak_boy on November 21st, 2007 03:33 am (UTC)
Yeah, I thought of those two as well, but couldn't figure out their names.
Some guy called Lap?harkon on November 21st, 2007 02:35 am (UTC)
Hmmm... Having looked at the second list of words and having to look up 'ataraxia', I've come to the opinion that the list strongly favours bad, over-written vampire/werewolf fantasy. The only thing that would be out of place would be halva (isn't that the dessert?) and you could probably enter the piece in that worst piece of sci-fi/fantasy "comptetition" I've heard about too.