Filler words. Tic words. Most all of us use them; although, the more you practice your craft and Recognize/Pay Attention to what you are writing/saying and how you are crafting your prose, the more you will be aware of filler or unnecessary or tic words. Yet, they do creep in when we are writing as we naturally speak (or as the character speaks), especially when “free-writing” that first draft, or writing in a casual loose way as we do in blog posts, or letters, et cetera. But the idea I try to push to you in my Monday Classroom posts is for things to become “second nature” – instinctual – in your writing, so that it carries over naturally into everything you do (mostly! :-D).
Some “tic” words: little, just, that, so, then, very, really—to name a few. It doesn’t mean you never use these words, it means to make sure you aren’t peppering your manuscript with unnecessary words that, well, aren’t necessary. Do a search for “so” or “just” or “very” and see how many come up—sometimes I use them on purpose, but it’s the “on purpose” that makes the difference, you see? In Family Graces, Adin says “very really much” – on purpose, though I tried not to do this so often it became distracting. In the South we often use “a little bit” or other colloquialisms—but again, “on purpose,” and as well, again, using them in a way that doesn’t distract your reader by overuse, or mindless use.
In Tender Graces/Secret Graces (oh dear, did I do it for Family Graces, erkity dang I don’t remember!) I did a search for “felt” and was amazed at how many times Virginia Kate said she felt something instead of showing the action of her “feeling it.” Sure, sometimes “felt” fits, but in many of the incidences I used “felt,” I was able to delete it along with several other words and instead make the action active instead of passive. How much better to have the character actually feel something rather than saying the character felt it, right?
Kathryn felt her stomach growling but she wanted to finish this blog post and besides she sure ate a lot over the weekend for her birthday (*birthday plug here even though she is already on cloud nine with birthday wishes on FB/twitter/email/phone/mail, but she’s greedy-guts – just a danged ole greedy guts who can’t get enough attention–dang her hide!*). *Wishes had more of those waffles GMR prepared for her yesterday–and notice the word “prepared” instead of “made,” huh? huh? notice?*
Kathryn’s stomach growled, but . . .
I once read a book peppered with “suddenly” – Suddenly, someone grabbed her arm; suddenly, the wind came; suddenly, she ran to meet her friend; suddenly, the car rounded the corner. Consider your manuscript—do you really need that “suddenly” when the action and/or dialogue itself can show immediacy? Virginia Kate has a “VK’ism” where she says, “All a sudden,” and like Adin’s “very really much” above, it’s On Purpose. But, yeah, watch those “suddenly’s,” y’all, and instead create the Action itself.
What about those similes? (which are often clichés if we aren’t careful): “Her hair was like an old frayed rope and she re-climbed it to get away from that prince dude she thought was her savior, but the tower was actually not so bad after all . . . .” Simile – when you use “like a” or “as a.” When I go through my manuscript, I really do try to watch for overuse of simile and metaphor—because boy did/do I tend to over-use them (hopes I do not now—wonders if should check latest manuscript but it’s already in copy-editing stage, dang! Wonders if remembered to check all these things in latest manuscript–dang.). I will note here that I use “as if” and “as” much more then “like” – as in, example:
Kat typed like she wasn’t in a hurry but she was because her stomach growled mean and hateful—her guts are in an uproar, shouting and stamping and storming the castle because the Prince is pissed off that the Repunz rejected him.
I use “as if” instead: Kat typed as if (or as though) she wasn’t in a hurry . . .
Create a Good Draft with freedom and abandon (unless you are an organizational type person who cannot write in this way). Personally, I ignore advice until I have a good solid Draft; I mean a GOOD solid Draft—Personally I think we writers give out too much advice, but dang, we love talking about language and writing! And really, we want to put a fire in your belly; at least I want to put a fire in your belly! Read your manuscript with a critical eye and tighten it, tighten it. Sure, we’ll always have “extra filler words” or use too many similes or use passive phrasing instead of direct action; after all, who is Perfect? And if we spend all of our time creating Perfection in our manuscripts, we’ll never be able to say, “I’m done . . . ” and then do the Happy Dance of Whoop Whoop Whooop as we gaze lovingly at our Completed Manuscript. However, the more you know, the more power you have to manipulate your words and the language. Right? Right!
Once again, as I always write to you: Know the rules so you can break them. Be aware of “tic” words. Practice your craft. Read with a critical eye. Pay Attention.
What are your “tic” words or phrases? Will you have a fire in your belly?