Hello, I’m Corinne MacGregor, and I’ve been an editor here at TWRP for about four years. It seems our editors have touched upon so many wonderful topics that I wondered what I could add this week. Then something came to mind, an issue I often encounter as an editor: distant writing.
Distant writing is something that stands out and is a problem because it interferes with the emotional enjoyment or connection with the characters in a story. Reporting something after the fact is not as exciting as letting the reader experience a scene as it unfolds for the characters.
It’s more fun to read a story if you’re involved and can almost hear, smell, see, touch, and taste what the point of view character does. Also, the inner happenings of the non-POV characters can be shown through expression, body language, tone, etc.
Here are some words that can be rephrased to take a story from distant writing to more in-depth, emotionally alluring writing:
Heard, saw, watched, thought, knew, and my favorite ;) “felt.”
When I see these in a manuscript, many times I’ll ask the writer to be more direct and “get under the character’s skin” so to speak.
While being more direct, the writer can involve the character’s emotions. Make it relevant to the character. For example, instead of “She heard footsteps coming up the stairs” this could be rephrased as “With each creak of the step, growing louder as he ascended, her excitement grew. She clasped her hands together and chuckled.”
Seeing words such as “saw” and “felt” draw a reader from the story by putting distance between the characters and them that shouldn’t be there to be engaging. Those words give it less of a feel of fiction and more like one of journalism/reporting.
Adverbs, especially those that end in –ly do the same thing. They water down writing and should be avoided where possible. There you go! Happy writing.