Fast moving petrification, or a brief cautionary tale about using a thesaurus

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Summary: A thesaurus can help in many ways. Sometimes, though, use of it can get out of hand. For example...

BLOT: (29 Jun 2011 - 03:56:41 PM)

Fast moving petrification, or a brief cautionary tale about using a thesaurus

When you are in high school, the thesaurus is treated like a magic book, a white grimoire that can heal bad sentence and rejuvenate tired wordplays. Even now, years after I have left high school, I can still tell the people who got their first creative writing class there because they are one who list the thesaurus high on the list of proper writer tools. And it does wonders. It also leads you into traps, like when you go to spruce up the word "terrified" with a word that means "frozen with fear", and then don't realize that things that are frozen with fear are not exactly fast moving. This is what Colin Brake did with the young-adult Doctor Who book, The Good, The Bad, and The Alien:

The noise, the heat and the intense light was too much for the poor horse. Jed found himself flying through the air and heard the petrified [emphasis mine] horse galloping off into the darkness, desperately trying to put as much distance between itself and the falling star as it could.

I can't help but picture a horse, completely stiff like a board, sort of wobbling out on legs that won't bend, like a statue being jerked across the desert...


Written by Doug Bolden

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