A Quick, Writerly Question

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Barn near Travellers Rest Plantation, Nashville TN (Copyleft Avery Oslo, 2010)

Thanks for taking the poll! A lariat is a stiff type of rope with a loop at the end of it — a lasso, like the ones used by cowboys and grungy rodeo types to capture rogue horses and cattle (and women in order to tie them to railroad tracks). I’m trying to gauge how well-known this word is. I grew up thinking it was common knowledge, until a friend of mine from the UK pointed out that not everyone would know. If enough of you know, I’ll keep it in my latest novel (which is not about rogue horses or cattle or women. Well, maybe rogue women, but I promise none of them will be lassoed).

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6 Comments

Filed under books, fiction, novels, WIP, writing

6 responses to “A Quick, Writerly Question

  1. I think even if people don’t know what a lariat is, it should become clear from the context.

    • Thanks, Kirsty. That’s kind of what I thought, but then I wondered how often this would happen. Anyways, you’re right– it’s a moot point. It will become clear through the context.

  2. I’m of two minds about this one. On the one hand, if the context is clear the reader will be able to infer what the word is describing, and will have learned a new word in the process. They can also look it up if it comes to that, though that may jar them out of the continuity of the scene.

    On the other hand, if what you’re referring to is a lasso, does it advance the story in any way to refer to it as anything other than a lasso? It is kind of a lowest common denominator approach, but if the use of loftier language isn’t warranted here for some other reason, I’d be inclined to stick with lasso and save the dictionary driving for another scene.

    Generally speaking, if I’m in an action scene, or one where the pace is important, I’ll use much simpler language so that nothing interrupts the pace, and if I’m at a slower scene, one that’s more cerebral and less visceral, I’ll tailor my language to suit that, as more complex language contributes to creating the mood of those scenes.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Steve. The action v cerebral scene scenario makes a lot of sense– I think in this one instance, lariat may not be a problem, but you’ve reminded me to do a once-over edit for pacing. It feels like perfect pacing takes a lifetime or more to get just right.

  3. I’m with Kirsty in that I had no idea what one was but I don’t know what a lot of things are until I read about them being used and then suddenly it all makes sense. Context is everything.

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