Two small problems I'm having

by Gabriel
(Braila, Romania)

Hi, I stumbled across your site and I got engaged in reading the hints and everything on the home page. I came to the conclusion that I've been mostly following the same patterns in my own work involuntarily and I thought I would share my pesky problems with you; perhaps you know a way to help me.

My problem is this: English is second language for me and as much as i got used to speaking it and listening to it everywhere, I find myself at a loss when reading other people's work. It's not the creative process that's the problem, it's the vocabulary: I find that other people manage to describe certain situations much better than me and have a higher impact on the reader and that they posses a richer vocabulary; good enough to not repeat themselves or make for a shallow reading. Is there any way for me to improve on that and what do you recommend?
PS: I've also found myself using my own words too often and I can't seem to think of better words(new words).

And the second problem: I'm interested in better ways to differentiate the personalities of my characters when it comes to dialogue. How can I do it better so it won't sound like it's the same character over and over again. Ive worked on this for a while and tried to give each character a certain signature in comunication; something personalized like a phrase or gesture but I have yet to perfect it. What do you think? Any hints you can give me?

Thank you and I look forward to your wisdom.

Comments for Two small problems I'm having

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Apr 06, 2012
Gratitude
by: Gabriel

Thank you very much for your fast reply and advice. I will certainly use a thesaurus from now on. And as for the second part, movies nowadays tend to use a more basic form of english but I will definately consider reading more books. Thank you.

Apr 06, 2012
Vocabulary and Dialogue
by: Audrey

What great questions, Gabriel!

First, I applaud you for writing in a second language. As you are finding, there are problems that native speakers don't usually have.

As for vocabulary, one quick way to find new words is to use a thesaurus. I own a hard copy, and I prefer it because my eye often wanders around the page to find something even better than what I thought I was looking for. But there are now good thesauri online, and they may be a better fit in your situation.

Be careful, though. Not all the suggested words work equally well, and you can expose your unease with English by using words that are slightly "off." You can ask a native speaker, if you have access to one, whether your new wording makes good sense. If you don't have a native speaker you can ask, try googling the new word. Read lots of instances of it so you get a feel for how it is used.

As for dialogue, vocabulary will help. As your vocabulary grows, you will find more differentiation in the way people speak.

But characterization goes beyond vocabulary. Gender, class, region of origin, age, education, and many other factors play into how a person speaks. Naturally, native speakers have a more intuitive sense of these things. Sometimes an outside observer notices things the native speaker misses. My best advice is simply to soak yourself in English dialogue. Movies and books are the places you would be most likely to have access to. But if there are English speakers near you, listen in on conversations. Can you hear the differences in the way men speak to men, women speak to women, and men and women speak to each other? Can you hear differences between younger people and older people?

The fact that you notice your problem shows that you care about the craft of writing.

I wish you well.

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