As a writer, one knows that every word has power. It’s not something you just say or write. It has the power to join together with other words to bring a scene to life in your mind. It has the power to recall a specific memory. It has the power to influence you. Think about what these words bring to mind: Love. Conquer. Acceptance. Epic.
Every word you use to write a story counts. Every sentence must advance your story or reveal character. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing your audience to boredom. Besides, it’s fun to let your readers fill in the gaps with their own imagination. It makes them feel invested in your story if they are able to form their own pictures from your words. It can make them care more about a character when there is room for them to adopt some detail to relate personally to them. See how a few descriptive words transform this simple sentence:
The girl walked into the classroom.
The shy girl walked into the boisterous classroom.
A few words transform a basic scene into one where you can sense the fear probably present in the girl – especially if you’ve ever been in a similar position.
Here are some areas to watch out for in your writing. You can easily use the “Find” or “Search” button in your document to help locate some of these words as well:
- Clichés: These are overused phrases that lack original thought. “It’s raining cats and dogs.” “As brave as a lion.” “Sent a shiver down my spine.” Don’t get me wrong – you can create a character who uses clichés as part of his persona (think James Riley’s The Rotten Banana character in Secret Origins). But don’t let these little buggers sneak into your writing. Think of your own original way to say what you mean. You might even coin a new cool phrase! For instance, instead of saying “giddy with excitement” you might say, “the laughter was bubbling and erupting from me like a volcano getting ready to explode.” Here’s a great list of clichés to know in order to avoid using them: http://www.clichelist.net/
- Needless words: eliminate the word “that” as much as possible. Other examples: however, but, since, some.
- Avoid use of adverbs (words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs). Hint: search for words ending in “ly”. Example: instead of “said quietly,” use “whispered”.
- Replace repetitive words. Highlight common words in your story in different colors and try to replace them with other options where possible with a wider variety of language. For example, in one of my stories, I overused the word “think.” Some other words I could use are: believe, contemplate or ponder. (A thesaurus does well here).
Take a recent story of yours and go through it to see how you did on the above considerations. What would you add to this list of things to watch out for?