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Thread: Can you use your own made up words in fiction?

  1. #1
    Registered User miyako73's Avatar
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    Can you use your own made up words in fiction?

    I want to write about a woman's coiffured hair that looks like the typical styled hair of a dame.

    Can I say "damish-coiffured hair"?

    Thank you.
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  2. #2
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Hi miyako I make up words all the time to fit the sentence I want to write. It allows one to imagine what the word could mean without referring to the dictionary. New invented words do wonder for the mind that is how I see it.
    'damish' sounds perfect to me. I like it so it is a big YES from me. In other contexts we do say 'boyish' 'girlish' and so damish is fine.
    Last edited by cacian; 01-06-2013 at 10:34 AM.
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    YES! You have total freedom.

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    Of course you can make up words - but they have to fit what you have in mind well enough for the reader to be able to figure out what you mean.

    I agree with cacian that 'damish' is fine - but 'damish-coiffured'? Yeugh.

    H

  5. #5
    Eiseabhal
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    Yes of course you can. Be prepared to create some bummers though. How many words did Lewis Carroll make up. Have a read of "Jabberwocky" again.

  6. #6
    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    "Jabberwocky" is a perfect example: it is a mirror poem, and it would be silly to think that a mirror poem would adhere to the Queen's English.

    Making up words is fine if your story calls for it or if they are subtle derivations on words (such as damish). But throwing "pipopdagle" into an otherwise "plain" story just makes it seem silly.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    . . . throwing "pipopdagle" into an otherwise "plain" story just makes it seem silly.
    . . .until it appears in cacian's next poem on here. See how much damage you can cause with one meaningless comment?

    H

  8. #8
    Registered User billl's Avatar
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    This is subjective, and the example in the OP is, in my eyes, a "closer call" than might often occur--a writer can make up words, but "anything goes" is pretty much a style unto itself (or a defining basis for one), and obviously outside of any context where this discussion needs to be had at all. Beyond special cases, I think the key is basically what Hillwalker says:

    ...but [invented words] have to fit what you have in mind well enough for the reader to be able to figure out what you mean.
    I think "damish" could be OK, but I see the word "dame" used so rarely I'd probably stumble on "damish" if there wasn't some context built up. I'd probably be prepared for it if an involved character had previously been described as a "dame" and/or some info about privilege, or "cultivation" or "snootiness" or something had been provided. But without some of that (e.g. "damish" being used in an initial description), some sentences using the word "damish" might very well have me wondering (for crucial, flow-disturbing milliseconds) whether the word was some sort of typo, or if it might be part of some specialized vocab (maybe a type of fabric, or a decorative pattern, possibly a type of braid (maybe ethnic?), etc.).

    But if I were ready for "damish", I'd probably also be ready for "damishly-coiffured hair". For me, "..the hair of a dame" seems easier to swallow, but that's subjective, of course (and it might not fit the particular sentence's structure).
    Last edited by billl; 01-06-2013 at 04:46 PM.

  9. #9
    Registered User miyako73's Avatar
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    Here's the tentative first paragraph of my novel where I want to use "damish".


    She dialed international on the payphone, and all the brass coins jingling in her hand were just enough for that brief talk. She wore her gold-on-black Hermes scarf, a frayed square of silk she wrapped and tied around her head to cover her face from street dust, belched smoke diffusing the smell of gasoline, and shame. She clasped her vintage tote in case bag snatchers would think she had money because of her damish coiffured hair and fair skin still without ugly signs that it would wrinkle soon. She felt so alone and despaired, with the solitude of the humid air mute inside the graffiti-ridden phone booth. She had never been so broke that she had to go to the street corner to make a phone call. Like those beggars, mumbling crazies, drunks, and homeless bums hanging out in the area, my mother stood on the sidewalk lost in the midst of chaos, in the middle of the dirt and noise of the city I left when I was sixteen, right after high school.
    Last edited by miyako73; 01-06-2013 at 09:22 PM.
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  10. #10
    Registered User billl's Avatar
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    I think that's fine, but I still think "damishly-coiffured" would be better--otherwise, your invention of the word "damish" carries with it the slightly-surprising expanded usage as an adverb without adding "-ly".

    (I also can't help mentioning that the bit about the fair skin and no wrinkles was kind of long in my opinion, how about "still fair skin" or "still reasonably fair skin" or something else that might capture the image you want, but less prosaically? Interesting character, and a good start, though!)

  11. #11
    Registered User miyako73's Avatar
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    Thanks, guys, for commenting. With all humility, I appreciate and value all your suggestions .
    "You laugh at me because I'm different, I laugh at you because you're all the same."

    --Jonathan Davis

  12. #12
    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    Can I suggest spelling it "dameish"? That might make the "dame" association clearer. Even better, since you're specifically describing her hair as making her look well-to-do, how about "grande-dameish"? Or is that overkill?
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  13. #13
    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hillwalker View Post
    . . .until it appears in cacian's next poem on here. See how much damage you can cause with one meaningless comment?

    H
    Making up nonsense is not something I can teach Cacian: the student has well surprassed the theoretical teacher.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

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    The Wolf of Larsen WolfLarsen's Avatar
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    hick up furps if U hip 2!

    Making up words is great! And if you don't follow any rules in making up words it's even better! All rules in literature are meant to be smashed into pieces with a sledgehammer!

    Why the hell even ask our permission? Unleash it on us! Literature is meant to be a wild dog that ferociously attacks the reader! Let me rephrase that! Let literature be a rabid dog biting the reader's ***!
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    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    response to question

    Quote Originally Posted by WolfLarsen View Post
    Making up words is great! And if you don't follow any rules in making up words it's even better! All rules in literature are meant to be smashed into pieces with a sledgehammer!

    Why the hell even ask our permission? Unleash it on us! Literature is meant to be a wild dog that ferociously attacks the reader! Let me rephrase that! Let literature be a rabid dog biting the reader's ***!
    I agree with many of the above that making up words is great. Jabberwocky is of course nonsense, a nonsense word, as are a few more in the poem. However Wolf must learn to tame his enthusiasm! (If that can be done, how does one tame a wild Wolf such as he?) He's wrong about not following the rules. If you have a made up word, and no one knows the meaning, but you want them to, you use the word, but use in accordingly in it's proper grammatical place.

    For instance, if it's an adjective, in English, you use it BEFORE the noun it describes. If it's an adverb, put it somewhere it describes a verb. Again, if you were writing in Spanish, you'd put your new made up word AFTER the noun. (if you want to imply it's an adjective) CASA BLANCA Spanish WHITE HOUSE-English. That way, it can be understood, and understanding is important in writing. Another way is to incorporate the rules of grammar, and maybe attach a prefix or suffix that hints of meaning.

    Like tree is trees in plural. And thumbledegigger (whatever the hell that is I just made it up) is single and thumbledegiggers is plural because of the s.

    Beni-thumbledegiggers are good and Mal-thumbedegiggers are bad, get me? Otherwise you new word might be misunderstood or not understood at all. And also keep in mind, that good readers are sensitive to CONTEXT and glean meaning from that too. Use that too. Contextual clues are how readers figure out new words, and after all, that's what you're giving them a new word. You are a dictionary unto yourself.


    And even the Wolfster has to agree that dynamiters have methods and rules for their ways of destruction and construction. Otherwise the mountain caves in!
    Last edited by Steven Hunley; 01-08-2013 at 01:50 PM.

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