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message 1: by Marisa (new)

Marisa Oldham (marisaoldham) | 554 comments Mod
Idiomatic Usage

Idioms are word combinations with unique grammatical construction or meaning that is not always logically derived from its combined parts. When we say “I smell a fire” we are speaking idiomatically. After all, it’s not the smell of the fire that alerts us but the smell of the smoke. While the triteness of idiomatic expressions should be avoided, do not hesitate to use them where appropriate.

Keep in mind that idioms tend to be metaphoric and often roll off the tongue naturally. Trite expressions, on the other hand, signal to the reader that the writer has haphazardly placed off-the-shelf phrases into the prose or shot from the hip.

Here are some common idiomatic expressions that according to my lecture this week (I am in college - Creative Writing II - Fiction) should not be used when writing prose.
*He eats like a pig
*The relationship started out all lovey-dovey
*The tiny red sailboat in the store took Stan down memory lane.

Personally, the memory lane idiomatic expression doesn't bother me at all.

Here are some that my lecture deems appropriate (thumbs up and all)
*Despite Steve's good looks, Lydia could not 'work up' feelings for him.
*Sylvia quickly 'ducked out' of the room.
*Sylvia turned out to be Steve's 'nightmare'

Do you use idiomatic expressions in your writing?

Why or why not?

message 2: by Jackie - Fire & Ice Book Reviews, Head MOD!! (new)

Jackie - Fire & Ice Book Reviews (jackiefireicebookreviews) | 589 comments Mod
Ah nice! Thanks Marisa :)

message 3: by Marisa (new)

Marisa Oldham (marisaoldham) | 554 comments Mod
Thanks to The Art Institute for their lectures. ;)

message 4: by Angie (new)

Angie Sakai | 13 comments Interesting... Something to seriously digest and think about in writing my next book....

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I don't really know if I do or not... I don't always pay attention to what I write and to tell the truth I haven't read anything by myself in a good 2 or 3 months...

message 6: by Roderick (last edited Oct 07, 2013 10:58PM) (new)

Roderick Davidson (roderickdavidson) | 7 comments For the examples given, I try to avoid using all, but one. The 'ducked out' example is an active description of an action, so while I might modify it, I would likely keep it. The rest, especially the first three, lack enough description to not read as anything but bland in my opinion. I'd rather read / write the first example as something such as:

Henry shoved the last bit of greasy pizza in his mouth, sucking in a hunk of gooey cheese that dripped onto his chin. He licked the sauce off of his fingers, oblivious to the pained looks from the woman across the table.

While the 'pig' comment may be more succinct, it lacks life. Or that could just be me.

Good topic btw - thanks. :)

message 7: by Jane (new)

Jane (janejonesreviews) | 9 comments In your example I can picture Henry eating his pizza, not that I would like to be across the table from him. The mental picture is vivid compared to the pig comment, which might mean somewhat that same thing.

Good example of descriptive writing.

More Later ~ Jody

message 8: by George (new)

George A Sheridan | 1 comments I wouldn't use any of them. I try like crazy not to use cliched expressions.

message 9: by Lilly (new)

Lilly Rowling (Idiomatic) | 1 comments Idioms are the building blocks of any language, you cannot imagine the existence of language without the idioms. I use idioms quite often, but not every time, but if you there are idioms all over, pick up a newspaper of a magazine you would find idiomatic expressions everywhere.

Though idiomatic expressions makes one language tough to learn but still they are very important, you cannot get rid of idioms.

message 10: by Marisa (new)

Marisa Oldham (marisaoldham) | 554 comments Mod

This was taken from a college level creative writing - fiction class. Where I agree with you on some points, a book with a ton of idioms would personally annoy me.

It's just food for thought :)


message 11: by Lan (new)

Lan LLP | 59 comments I think it makes your writing more 'human' when you use it sporadically. I agree with Marisa- too much is over-kill in a book.

message 12: by Marisa (new)

Marisa Oldham (marisaoldham) | 554 comments Mod
There was a book I read recently that had them all over. I can't remember what book, but I remember thinking, "that's why they taught us that!"


message 13: by Stephen (last edited Oct 04, 2014 03:26PM) (new)

Stephen (havan) | 12 comments Marisa wrote: "Idiomatic Usage...
*The tiny red sailboat in the store took Stan down memory lane.... doesn't bother me...

Do you use idiomatic expressions in your writing?

Why or why not? "

I don't object to the "memory lane" aspect of that but given that it's paired with "sailboat" we have a mixed metaphor that can conjure silly images that could pull the reader from their willing suspension of disbelief.

I kinda agree with Khaled Hosseini's sentiment that he worked into The Kite Runner “about clichés. Avoid them like the plague.”

I think one legitimate use of idiom is to add descriptive depth to one of your characters in dialogue without having to resort to long descriptions.

Another is to add some gravitas via reference so long as it doesn't impede the story-telling. For example, a Harry Potter fan/fic that refers to Grifyndor and Slytheren as "two house alike in dignity" connotes rivalry and feuding and impending tragedy to those that connect the Shakespeare reference.

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