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Word Connotations





One of the things that I regret from years ago was my complete inability to understand the language barrier or even the casual slang that people used in their emails or comments when giving me feedback to the newest chapters of stories that I put online. Hehehe, so my apologies if I misunderstood certain phrases or expressions of personal wit and took it as an insult or a criticism. Trust me, I don't do that anymore.

Weird, right??? Comsie matured? Say it ain't so, Joe! LOL!

Well...not by much, I assure you! But a little, yes.

But there were people from overseas that would refer to certain parts of a story as being 'stupid' or 'lazy', and I used to take those as harsh comments, even if the rest of the feedback was mostly positive. It wasn't until later that I understood that some of these were common words used to describe certain things that were meant to be complimentary more than anything else. And I began communicating more with people from Korea, and Russia, and South Africa, and Brazil...and our communications are so different. It's crazy! It took some getting used to...but I think I've got a much better handle on it now. And I kinda feel bad for taking offense earlier for such petty things. Ugh! I suck for that!

But, that's just a build up to something that I want to talk about here when it comes to our writing. Because where my earlier misunderstandings once lied...there are many more landmines placed for your readers to suddenly trip over when reading your story from beginning to end. Word usage is a huge part of being an effective author. There are a lot of people that will believe that words are just words, and the message will be conveyed the same way, no matter how you say them. But, I'm here to tell you that this couldn't be further from the truth.

The words that you use have a HUGE impact on how your current emotion, tone, and theme, is received by the people who are reading your work. Don't doubt it for a single second...it's the truth.

Sexually speaking, there is a major difference between saying...

"I slid into his narrow opening, feeling it tighten up around my erection as this young beauty presented himself to me, wanting more."

And saying...

"I shoved it into his supple body, his ass clutching my cock in a vice grip as this sexy twink slut begged me to go deeper."

Same action, same scenario...but the mood is different. The feeling is different. There's nothing wrong with either one of those expressions...but you can't deny that they have a completely different vibe to them. No matter what it is that you're writing, the words you use to describe what's happening in your story have a major impact in how someone reads it. So it's something to think about when trying to gain attention from a particular fanbase or market your stuff to a certain demographic.

So...today, let's talk about word connotation...and how to keep it consistent throughout your story so as not to send out mixed messages.

I won't lie...this took me a few years worth of practice before I could find my own particular rhythm when it came to this sort of thing. And that's normal. So no regrets. I chalk it up to being a very helpful learning experience for those first few years of me figuring things out on my own.

For instance...I don't really use the word 'cock' in my stories anymore. I just don't. I've reached a point where it almost sounds a bit vulgar to me when it comes to the kind of stories that I write, personally. Romance and love and a bashful kid kissing his dream boy for the very first time? It feels a little off-tone to then say, "And then he shoved his hot COCK in my mouth!" Hehehe, my apologies if the language caught you guys off guard, but that's kind of the point of this article. Words matter! People are reading. And your poetic and lovely romance can turn into hardcore porn in an instant if you're not paying attention to your word usage. It's something that can drastically change the tone of your whole narrative and put your audience in an entirely different place from where they started. And that's how some really good stories end up slipping between the cracks, where neither side is going to end up being really satisfied with what you're putting out there.

Is this a super hot story that I can jack off to and explode in the next few minutes? Or is this a romantic character driven story that I can follow and engage myself in over the next few weeks? Instant gratification versus emotional investment. Some people don't know which is which. You either get people skipping the sex to get back to the story, or skipping the story to get back to the sex. And, believe it or not...a lot of this has to do with words you use when you're writing.

I learned a lot about my own writing when I went back to re-edit and update older chapters to match some of the current chapters that I was writing, and I was truly amazed by how different the feeling was between my most recent stories and the horny, sexually frustrated, stories that I started out with. Hehehe! It was like night and day. That's not to say that I regret those older chapters or how they were written. That's what I was feeling, and it was perfect for what I needed them to be at that time. But, now that I'm finishing up a lot of my long running series...my biggest worry is that they'll come off as inconsistent as a whole project. And that brings us to rule number one...be consistent.

If you want to write a sex story...cool! Write a sex story. If you want to write a romance story...also cool. Write a romance story. But word usage is key if you're looking to maintain that particular mood throughout...beginning to end. There's nothing wrong in burning up some built up hormonal fury by writing a story about throbbing cocks, tight assholes, sucking, swallowing, and sweaty sexual encounters in an empty college dorm room during a party. If that's what you're shooting for, then use words that will paint that picture and give your readers that particular form of excitement. That's not really a place for rainbows and puppy dogs. You're in an entirely different lane of traffic now. (The fast lane, to be specific) However...if you're looking to create a love story, concerning matters of the heart, passion, fear, doubt, and warm and fuzzy feelings for your protagonist and his love interest...then you need to stay in that lane and maybe slow things down a bit. Avoid a bit of the hardcore language, and try to use phrases and descriptions that are more 'beautiful' than they are 'hot'. There's a difference.

Create a little online thesaurus for yourself if you have to. Look at all of the words that you might use for a sexual experience...and put the into two different categories, based on how they make you feel when you read them. Read other people's stories to see if you can figure out the difference. If words like cock, phallus, member, or erection, make you think more of online porn? Put that in column A. If words like manhood, shaft, hardness, or length, feel like they take a bit of the 'sting' off and can be used for more romantic stories? Put them in column B. Revise from time to time if necessary. The point is to develop an instinct for how words work and how they affect you. Chances are...they are affecting your readers the same way.

The best example I can offer you comes in the form of two stories that I wrote, a few years apart. New Kid In School was not only the first gay teen story that I wrote online...but it was the first gay story that I had written ever. And if you read that first chapter now, you can probably see how different it feels from something that I might have just written a few days/weeks/months ago. I still love it, and it will always have a very special place in my heart, but it's clear that my word usage isn't the same now that it was back then.

Skip ahead a few years, when I was a bit more settled into my craft and learning the lessons that I needed to learn to create something a bit more nuanced and complex...you can read the story, "Ryan's Heart"...which is that same first chapter, but written from 'Ryan's' point of view. Go through and see how the word usage is different. How some things are better off 'suggested' instead of written out. Does it 'feel' different? Do you feel different when you're reading it?

I have no idea what my word count is on GayAuthors at this point, but I know it's in the millions somewhere...and I've developed some of the weirdest gut instincts about the way I phrase certain things! Hehehe but they work. I stand by them. You see, this doesn't just apply to sexual matters. It works for everything you write. Our connection to words is more emotional than you may think. If you call somebody a rapist...does anything else they say in that sentence really matter? How do you get past the negative connotation of the word rapist? Like...wait, WHAT??? If you say that some drug addict won the marathon for breast cancer this weekend...what feeling does that give you? Mixed messages in your work come from mixed word usage. And it's really hard for me to explain, but if you go through your own work...you might see examples of your own that will stand out as being conflicted in terms of theme and tone. Being consistent is soooo important.

Hmmm...how can I describe it...?

Let's say that you're writing a romantic story, right? And your main character reaches down to rub the hard lump in his lover's pants. If everything has been written as a love story up until that point, and then you say, "I grabbed his crotch"...well, that could be a stumbling block for some readers. It takes them out of the moment. In terms of tone, you went from 'date night' to 'truck stop bathroom' in the matter of a single sentence. You have to pick a tone and make it your anchor. Don't try to hop back and forth between romance and porn, it rarely works. That's not to say that porn can't be sweet, and that's not to say that romance can't be naughty when you need it to be...but you need to constantly be aware of what connotation the words you use are taking on for your readers. Remember...the connection is emotional. There's a difference between making love, having sex, and fucking. And you can use either one, depending on what you're writing at that time. But make sure that everything that you're doing before and after that sensual moment matches up. Know what kind of story you're preparing to tell beforehand so you can pull this off.

Pay attention to how certain words make you feel when you read them. This is why reading a variety of stories other than your own is so important. Find the stumbling blocks and signals in the work of your peers. It's all text...but the text has meaning. Meaning that might go much deeper than you would ever expect it to. Look at the words. The word sadness may affect you and convey a certain message...but what if we crank it up a bit? What about misery? That may give you a feeling of prolonged sadness that has lasted for quite some time. What about torture? What does seeing the word torture do to you? Agony? Heartbreak? Numbness? They all have a different feel to them. Read them, think about them and how they make you feel, and once you get a personal understanding for them...figure out how to best use these words or words like them in your own work. What about being mad? Then anger. Then fury. Then RAGE! Then LOATHING or HATRED! There are different degrees, but the words alone, as well as your audience's connection to these words, can help you create instincts to use just the right word at just the right time. And this will come in handy when trying to convey a certain potency of emotion when writing about your characters' experiences in their story.

Does that make sense? Hehehe, I hope it does.

Anyway, the point is finding an understanding of the building blocks that you use to create your story. Go through your own stories, go through the stories of other writers, and try to understand how certain words were just perfect in sending out the message that the story needed at that particular point in time. Why do I feel like this? Why does this description of two boys kissing for the first time make me melt and giggle this way? Why does this character's death make me want to cry so badly? Why does that one sentence make me want to angrily put my fist through a wall? Why does this description make me so HORNY? Find the emotional attachments to the words that are used to convey the strongest of your emotions...and then find ways to use them to your advantage when writing stories of your own. You can manipulate your project in ways that will get everyone to feel exactly what you feel when you wrote it, and you can trigger and pull on any emotional strings you want in order to get the feeling to leap off of the screen and truly affect your readers in a powerful way.

Words have so much power. When you watch commercials on TV, when you watch the news, when you listen to music...you had better believe that there are people behind the scenes that are working their asses off and getting paid TONS of money to alter your perception to get you to think what they want you to think, and feel the way they want you to feel. Trust me...I've seen it. And it's frightening to witness, to be honest. Hehehe! But your words have just as much power as theirs do. So wield that weapon with caution and grace, k? With great power comes great responsibility and all that jazz. :P

Take care, you guys! And I'll seezya soon with more! :)


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Thank you @Comicality for those words of wisdom and words of wisdom they are. When reading a story I very often skip the sex scenes as many written almost like porn, if I wanted porn I'd go to porn web-site, so as to get to what is otherwise a good story. When reading some stories I will also skip a fight scene as almost feels like gratuitous violence and not really relevant, or am I just being picky here. As you say words set the scene, a romantic sex scene feels like it's a relevant part of a story where as 'over the top' gratuitous sex ruins an otherwise good story and doesn't fit the story line and is just two guys just 'banging away' just for the sake of it, as do 'over the top' descriptions of violence just to get some blood, guts and gore into it can detract from the drama and suspense of an otherwise good thriller. You have definitely given me some good pointers to consider and I hope others feel the same way. Once again thank you for a thought provoking post.

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Words can be both simple and complex. Especially when trying to write a decent story. Nothing gives you a wake up call quicker than your editor or beta questioning a word or phrase and you realize you're writing from your own regional dialect. "Wicked" in Massachusetts means something completely different than "wicked" in most every other part of the world. 

Another great article!

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Was just talking about this and @kbois pointed me to this blog (was out of town all weekend so I missed it). This is really on point for me right now as I'm re-reading my current story, trying to clean it up and 'feel' out the scenes more. Perfect post for me. Thanks.

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