by Angelyn Sherrod
Today’s post may give you the extra boost that you need to make your opening shine.
Story structure? Check. Character arcs? Check. Plot holes filled? Check, check.
Now, you want to take another pass through your opening, using your FIND/REPLACE function, to identify those words that criminally fail to engage your reader or bogs down your narrative voice.
First example: FILTER WORDS
Remember the earlier post on Show vs Tell? The following words represent some of the major culprits that drag your writing into TELL-mode and make your writing overall, messy. Avoid using in any tense of these root words.
SEE, LOOK, HEAR, KNOW, REALIZE, WONDER, DECIDE, NOTICE, FEEL, REMEMBER, THINK
These words filter the experience rather than allowing the reader to immerse herself in your story and experience it on her own.
Lucy felt the cold air against her skin and decided it was too late to leave.
Cold air pressed against Lucy’s skin. Too late to leave now.
Notice how the word count went down. *just saying*
Next example: THAT
If the sentence makes sense without this word, eliminate it.
It was easy to see that the dog was hurt.
It was easy to see the dog was hurt. OR The dog was hurt.
OF is another overused word, as in all of the. The only thing this word adds is a higher word count. It adds nothing to your message and the sentence works just fine without it. Delete it.
REALLY AND VERY
We use these words in our everyday, real life speech for punch and emphasis but in prose, it weakens storytelling.
Instead of very happy, try delirious.
I am definitely ratting myself out with the next one:
Adverbs, -ly words. *See what I just did?*
Think of adverbs as Chanel Parfum: a little goes a long way.
START or BEGIN:
I’m from the south and the next crime, on the surface, doesn’t seem to be a deal breaker to me, given how my speech is peppered with: I’m finna or fixin’ to.
But telling your reader what’s about to happen weakens the immersive experience you’re trying to achieve.
The boy began to cry. VS The boy cried. Or better still: Tears welled in his eyes.
These are just a few examples of crimes against good writing. You’ll want to avoid them as many as possible in order to escape the punishment of the slush pile.
What are some of your most overused words?