Monday, June 25, 2012

Those forbidden, naughty words….


By Ally Robertson

No, this isn’t a blog post about erotica. I know absolutely nothing about writing erotic. I’m a suspense editor, but these words should be forbidden in any genre—or at least used sparingly. This is about those ‘bad’words that show up in so many manuscripts I receive. Words that slow your pacing, make your writing less active, less immediate, and distance the reader.
I’ve listed some to avoid—but trust me, there are many, many more:
Wondered
Felt
Heard
Saw
Suddenly
Decided
Knew
Thought
Began to, Started to (Don't say your character 'Began to walk down the street' Just say, 'She walked down the street' Don't say your character 'Started to laugh.' Just say 'She laughed.')

Not to say these words can never be used, but the less you use them, the more active, the more ‘showing’ your story will be.

Some examples:

Before:

Julia was about to chime in when she heard the door to the bar open. She turned and saw Jasper Ramsey’s widow and son walk in.
Feeling her stomach clench and tears close her throat, she thought back to what had happened ten years earlier. The six of them drinking too much. The joy ride along the narrow, dark lake roads. Jasper Ramsey’s body flying in the air before landing in the murky water.

After:

Julia was about to chime in when the door to the bar opened, and Jasper Ramsey’s widow and son walked in.
Her stomach clenched and tears closed her throat. The memories that were never far away came flooding back…the six of them drinking too much. The joy ride along the narrow, dark lake roads. Jasper Ramsey’s body flying in the air before landing in the murky water.

Which one sounded more immediate? Made you closer to the emotion? To what the character is experiencing? There’s no need to tell readers what she heard, saw, felt and thought. Just state it, actively and directly.

Before:

She knew the cemetery had been their second favorite hangout, next to the lake, and now, two of them were resting here…forever.
Suddenly, a voice spoke behind her. “Are you okay?”
She whirled and saw Jake standing a few feet away, studying her with that intense expression of his, as if he could ferret out her every secret, pull every thought and emotion from her soul.
She peered up at him. Rain dripped from the brim of his hat as he squinted at her, his mouth
turned down in sympathy. She wondered what it would be like to fall into him, to feel his arms close around her, to rest in his comforting embrace. She decided that wouldn’t be wise.

After:

The cemetery had been their second favorite hangout, next to the lake, and now, two of them were resting here…forever.
“Are you okay?”
She whirled at the low rumble of Jake’s voice behind her.
He stood a few feet away, studying her with that intense expression of his, as if he could ferret out her every secret, pull every thought and emotion from her soul.
She peered up at him. Rain dripped from the brim of his hat as he squinted at her, his mouth turned down in sympathy. She wanted to fall into him, to feel his arms close around her, to rest in his comforting embrace. She sucked in a breath, willing the power to resist.

Don’t tell readers what she ‘knew’ or give them a head’s up that something is about to occur by using the word ‘suddenly.’ Just let the action play out so that the reader experiences it along with the character.

One more….

Before:
He moved up a couple of steps. She felt her breath stall in her throat as his scent filled her nostrils. Suddenly, a slow, warm thrill uncoiled in the center of her belly.
She knew the look in his eye was far from romantic. She saw anger that turned the gray to steel. She could see pain there, too.

After:
He moved up a couple of steps. Her breath stalled in her throat, his scent filling her nostrils. A slow, warm thrill uncoiled in the center of her belly.
But the look in his eye was far from romantic. Anger had turned the gray to steel, but there was pain there, too.

Check your manuscript for these types of words and get rid of as many of them as you can. You’ll find your writing to be more showing, more vivid, and readers will become engaged and connect more closely with the action and with your characters.
Have a wonderful week…Happy Writing!

Ally Robertson
Editor
Crimson Rose - Suspense and Intrigue

The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

TheWildRosePress.com  

12 comments:

Nikki said...

Really good advice, Ally, and an eye-catching title. Thanks for showing how it's done.
Kinan

allywildrose said...

Thank you, Kinan. I'm glad it was helpful. You're quite welcome! :-)

Diana Layne said...

good tips, always something to be alert to in editing.

Kathy Wheeler said...

Perfect!!!

Calisa Rhose said...

Great examples of those naughty words. Thanks for sharing.

allywildrose said...

Thank you, Diana, Kathy, and Calisa. I appreciate you stopping by.

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

I see several of my favorites! :)
Why are these naughty words so easy to spot ... in OTHER people's writings?

Great post, Ally.

Alicia Dean said...

LOL, Jess. I don't know, but they are. That's why it's easier to be an editor than a writer. (One of the MANY reasons )

LaVerne Clark said...

Great article which I'm sharing. Thanks Ally!

Karyn Good said...

Great post, Ally! Those words are like weeds. It always amazes me how they manage to show up despite my best efforts. Thanks for the reminder!

Jannine Gallant said...

It's amazing how often I used the word "watched" before you pointed it out to me. All I can say is, thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Maddy said...

An interesting list - I've printed them out as a reminder - but I notice you mention they're only some of many. I do hope you'll be offering us some more in the future?