Diction: Latinate versus Anglo-Saxon

Reblog Thursday is back! (Ish) This reblog post is from all the way back in 2012, but I only stumbled across it a couple of days ago, as I only started following Lara’s blog last year.

Ever wondered why synonyms are sometimes so very different to each other? Or why some words, especially in writing, are sesquipedalian and polysyllablic ( 😉 ) whilst others are short and simple? In this post, Lara explains how the roots of words can effect how they are read and which genres they better suit.

Kind of explains how my Latin studies effected my propensity for lengthy sentences and florid oratories! 😛

Lara Willard

Diction = word choice

Synonym = a word’s twin in meaning, e.g. “big” and “large” are synonyms.

Ever wonder why English has so many freaking synonyms? Because it’s the lovechild of Germanic and French languages. (French isn’t called a romance language for no reason. ) While having so many choices can be a wonderful thing, it can also be disastrous. With great vocabulary comes great responsibility. I’m talking to you, Christopher Paolini. Step away from the thesaurus.

You’ll notice the language split when two political candidates start campaigning and one plays the “smarter than thou” card and the other plays the “average joe” card. Smarter-than-thou is going to try to dazzle you with a academic, million-dollar vocabulary. Average Joe is going to give you a pat on the back with neighbor-speak. John Kerry vs. W. Bush. I’d watch their debates for examples if I didn’t hate politics so much.


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Words Are the Images of the Soul

A thought-provoking quote to end your Monday on. Linguistics is so fascinating that it’s no surprise how much consideration has been given to how it reflects the world. With our souls, we paint metaphysical pictures of our world unfolding; with our mouths, we do our best to vocalise the ineffable.

Plot Line and Sinker (Ellen Gable, Author)

Words are truly

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Swirls of Words

Did you know that there’s a place on the web where you can visualise any document or element of text? Wordle. So, being me, I was messing around on it, seeing what I could come up with if I copy-and-pasted the entirety of WTCB into it.

Anndd, tilt head…now. No, I won’t laugh at you for doing that. I’m doing it, too.



The romantic, arty version

Let’s look at this for a second. (Click to zoom if you like) I think it’s a pretty awesome representation of the novel. As expected, our protagonists Aidelle and Phillip – the lovers – feature the most. In the same vein, the supporting relations emerge here: Peter, Phillip’s brother, from whose eyes some of the novel is seen; Zara, Aidelle’s Supporting Character; Rion, the antagonist; even Dr. Costello – misled father role, if he had to be shoved into one – has been recorded by the Wordle, through both direct and indirect ‘father’ references.

In fact, if one looks closely enough, one sees that, whilst not all of the Costello family are mentioned, Andrew makes his appearance, and even servants Tia and Richards are there!

Interestingly, you’ll see words like ‘head’, ‘face’ ‘eyes’, ‘lips’, ‘voice’, ‘hand/s’, ‘fingers’ and ‘arms’ in varying levels of Wordle prominence. I can guarantee that novels without strong romantic hooks will have these words contribute much less. However, due to my romantic plot, these characters understand each other through the way they touch, through their attraction and appreciation of each other: that’s what holds together the novel. In the same way, you’ll notice the prominence of words of unity and measure – ‘one’, ‘together’ (juxtaposed with ‘without’ in the second Wordle), ‘heart’ and ‘love’. Aww.

On the other hand, one mustn’t forget the setting-y, sci-fi-y words with a leaning towards Aidelle’s entrapment: ‘clock’ – naturally! – ‘time’,’stopped’, ‘house’, ‘door’, ‘kitchen’, ‘room’, ‘war’, ‘world’…

I’ve got the philosophy elements via ‘know’ and ‘thoughts/think’, ‘believe’ and ‘mind’.

Is that even ‘words’ in there? The Wordle knows me well!

Of course, I could analyse every word mentioned for its literary relevance to my works. Instead, though, I’ll leave that to your wandering eyes. There is some great Wordle word placement. Some words there aren’t surprising – those words of place and sentence; others, I guess, are novel-specific.



As a last thing, I’d like to thank Charley R for promoting Fauxpocalypse on her blog (though she does spell my surname wrong, but she has fully admitted to that fact to me). Check it out.

“Zara’s Face Was Boyish, with Elfin, Slanted Eyes”

Elfin (imagine the swirling script here) is a brilliant, yet underused adjective.

But what does it mean?

The four most common definitions of elfin include:

> Relating to, or of, elves (duh!)

> Strange or otherworldly (like an elf creature)

> Of mischief and charm (usually good-natured)

> Small and delicate of features. “Her black hair suited her elfin face” (thanks, Google, did you steal that image from me?)

It is this last definition that comes into play most important here.

Zara, Supporting Character, is one of my most interesting characters of my novel When the Clock Broke; she’s probably the most mysterious in her determination and novel goals, yet she bonds with MC Aidelle in a stronger way than I ever expected, even with my superior knowledge. In book2, Zara gets her own screentime, her own side of the temporal ‘fracture’. There, though – despite how she may try – her darker personality bleeds through a once-naive expression. She’s a tricky and sneaky character.

The first time we meet Zara, we understand her strangeness through not only her difference to Aidelle or her new actions – but through her appearance, something over which, of course, we as humans never have any control. Yet, Zara manages to creep out of the woodwork-pages with her looks:

A girl peered out: a young woman probably in her late teens. Her face was boyish, with elfin, slanted eyes, even if her other features were not, like the dark hair tumbling down her back in tamed waves. She’d stuffed a pilot’s cap over her crown, and attempted to tuck a strand behind her ear.

Whilst Google Imaging the word, I came across a certain picture. Of course, I’ve used actors (such as Lucy Hale) to capture the visual to my description, but pictorial evidence never really came to me. Then I found the picture. It accomplishes, in painted form, what Zara would look like were she really a) an elf and b) a boy.

Notice the brooding look, the ominous tilt-and-pout, and the strong hold of his stare. Although the colours aren’t quite Zara, the pose and expression – arguably more important in a character – are exactly her. Besides, we have to include some leeway for the elf genes to manipulate her exterior.

Writers – have you ever stumbled across a picture/photo that illustrates exactly what you’ve wanted to say, but from a twisted viewpoint? What parts of their personalities would your characters’ elf-selves have compared to their usual selves?

Slew, Sluice and Sleigh

It’s not really back, but, wahey, I have a word of my week that keeps trailing its feet through my mind.


A slew of rain/rain slewing, and, uh, some creatures (?) from a PS3 game…

verb – turn or slide violently; change direction sharply

<much adjectives very annoyingness>

noun – a large group of (archaic); also, the noun of the verb, sliding movement

Also, the past perfect of slay.

I should actually have put the noun first, since that is what originated first, from ‘sluagh‘, an Irish word meaning crowd or multitude. Estimated time of conception: 1840s

As well as its English homograms, I have other fun rather homophonic words that pop into my mind when I write and think of slew.

Sluice – irrigate with water from a conduit; sleigh – always a fun one: that little wooden vehicle for over snow, also known as ‘sledge’ (though it can be debated whether there is difference between the two of them).

Have a good rest of the day. A

WTCB September: Should I Have Music?


I LOVE music. I feel like I live it. When I play my acoustic guitar, the notes flow and dance around me; when I listen to music, it fills me with joy. I always have some sort of song in my mind.

So why do I have very few instances of music in When the Clock Broke? Sure, I have mentions, but, even the instances of living through the music are fleeting. Some books have a melodic undertone or symbolic numbers interwoven – easier to write in contemporary or historical than fantasy. Nevertheless, I believe all writing should have at least an inch of musicality to its prose.

As a general question, is there a way to wind music into each story, or is it simply not possible?

Perhaps When the Clock Broke is missing a stream of symbolic music/melodic references because it’s a classical world with fewer instruments; fewer instances of explicit performance. The Conservatoire (the Continental college for music) is only opened after the end of the trilogy, in time for Zara’s little sister to study there.

Even so, that’s a weak excuse.

Why? The honest answer is ‘I don’t know’. I never imagined that any scenes in the novel are filled with music as they occur – I’ve not even a soundtrack, as some authors have. Even during Lynnetta’s scenes – because it’s not about her soprano gift and performance, it’s about what happens after she finishes singing. It’s just in her personality to be a singer, as it is in her grandfather’s to attempt to learn the piano given with his fiancé.

In Costello Mansion, an eerie silence hangs. A foreboder of the land laid bare and unentertained? After all, the entertainers are the middle-lower class; it is the role of the upper class to watch and only watch. Still, the family eats in silence; the servants have no piano or musical instrument; and Andrew’s guitar was abandoned in the attack a long time ago (I told you he was a cold fellow).

Conversely, it’s characters who play instruments for whom I really care. So – why do none of mine properly?

Is Phillip weak for not being able to progress further with his pianist instincts? Or is that simply borrowed from my own lapses in practise?

That world is without music. Why? Or rather – how did it come to lack music’s golden caress? Or still – should it have? One of the things I’ve always wondered about JK Rowling’s world is that she rarely explicitly mentions a wizard or witch who plays an instrument. One’d have thought Hermione would have been musical, since all the brightest people I know are not only freakishly intelligent, but they are similarly gifted musically.

Should fantasy worlds always have a musical background or aspect to them? Of course, music adds another flavour of culture, as with any tale, but I don’t want to force it into the mix, to make melodies where none exist.


I look at my novel sometimes frequently with an eye of pure criticism: “how is this great, or powerful, or wonderful?” Where are those pieces of sparkling inspiration I see when I read? Nobody has a gramophone in The Continent (ironically, in the contemporary, there is one – but then that also comes with a dead organist, so figures), so no music will play in the background. In a stilled time, how will music spill when life does not move? In an alternate universe, I cannot choose from a selection of old-timey musicians because those musicians never existed. Only Latinate verse is found from the somewhere.

But they are there, in the background. If music had been discovered/had evolved sooner, perhaps Chopin and Bach would have joined the list of historical figures in The Almanac we share with The Continent.


Did I mention that music can change my mood very quickly?

PS. I love the origin of English the word ‘music’. As with many words, it has evolved through several languages to be the word we know today, including old French (oddly, the same as the current French musique, so I’m not entirely sure how it is entitled to be ‘old’ French apart from the Norman Conquest linages).

Unsurprisingly, however, we look back as far as the Romans and Greeks for our word. The Latin musica is a stolen derivative of the Greek word for the Muses: µύσας. The consonantal K-sound then comes from the genitive of µύσα, as any form of art was described as the work of the Muses: µὐσική τέχνή.

One more fun fact: as collated by Aristotle, ‘techne’, technical knowledge (in this case used as the act of creating a finished product), is one of the primary intellectual virtues forming in the rational part of the soul needed for living a more virtuous/continent life.