When I entered a first sentence crit contest on a blog where the viewers are writers (some of them published), I assumed they would know words I commonly use. Here's my first line.
'Her voice has the timbre of someone chewing on a balloon.'
Apparently I've flummoxed a lot of people by using the word 'timbre.' 'Timbre' meaning the quality of the sound. Timbre is why a violin and a flute playing the same note and pitch sound different.
And by 'flummoxed,' I mean... wait, really? I have to explain that one too? *sigh*
People said I sounded 'like I was trying too hard to be clever.' 'That it sounded as though I'd taken the word out of a thesaurus.' 'Like I was using the word incorrectly.' 'Like it was old fashioned.'
Sorry, but you're talking to a girl who worked 'gallivanting' into a rock song. It was a deliberate word choice, and is completely accurate in both cases. It is not old fashioned - it is a musical definition. I work in music; I don't need to look up the definition of timbre. I don't write by looking up words in a thesaurus. I use the knowledge I already have and write what I know.
If my words are too 'confusing' for you, I suggest you start challenging yourself a bit more when choosing reading material. You will never improve as a reader if you read AT your level. You get better by reading slightly above your level - by challenging yourself!
It seems like in these critique contests, that readers are looking to be confused by other writers' content. One woman commented she 'doesn't know what chewing on a balloon sounds like, and she couldn't imagine it.'
What the flaming fuck? You can't even *imagine* what that would sound like? Sorry, but aren't you a writer? Aren't you used to creating worlds and people in your work? Don't you have to imagine things every day to create a novel? Is it just me who is able to take an imaginative leap when reading someone else's work? (It's not just my entry I'm speaking of. You should see the things that "confuse" some of the critiquers).
I'm not sure if this is because A) they are really that stunned, or B) they are trying to sabotage other writers by leaving negative comments on their entries.
I'm not sure which makes me sadder.
If they ARE that stunned that they can't connect simple dots, or even imagine something, then what does that say about their work? We've either got writers who can't imagine anything, or even infer anything from a sentence, or writers who are trying to sabotage other writers.
Both scenarios sadden me.
Writing seems to get watered down more and more as time goes by. People need things explained for them more and more, they need art to be spoon-fed to their under used palates.
I am not going to water down my vocabulary to appease the illiterati. I am writing what I know and what I love with the tools at my disposal.
We are WRITERS. We are supposed to figure out what we want to say, and then say it as succinctly as possible.
And by 'succinctly,' I mean...
See how ridiculous it gets? Where do we draw the line at dumbing things down for people who aren't familiar with our vocabulary? Do we treat the reader like they are a tiny child, incapable of looking up a word that they aren't familiar with? That said, even children learn to infer an unfamiliar word's meaning from the rest of the sentence.
And by 'infer,' I mean...
I can't assume that you know every word I do. But I can't write my book assuming that you don't know anything. I'm going to treat you like a reasonably intelligent adult. I'm going to write as though you are capable of inference, or at least capable of looking something up in a dictionary if you don't understand it.
I say big words not to show off, but because that word is the one that I need. Sure, I could say, 'Her voice sounds like someone chewing on a balloon,' but even then, there are some of you who can't imagine what I mean. If you can't imagine that, then you shouldn't be reading my work. Go back to board books where everything is spelled out for you, you unimaginative bastard.
I write big words. I say big words. And you should too.