Ah, the word shiver. Over used and oft abused. This is on my personal list of filter words. One that is injected into a sentence to replace showing an emotion. I find it in plethora among the words of a romance, horror or mystery. Or just dumped in to lazy writing, like I’m guilty of. 😉
At first I used this word freely, it’s a great way to express an obvious feeling right? Well yes and no. People shiver for different reasons, it’s those reasons that suggest this blanket word can be stretched out or removed altogether.
Billy’s fingers gently brushed the back of her arm sending pleasant shivers across her body. (15)
Not a bad sentence really. A few unnecessary words. If I’m also worried about (word count) I would remove gently and pleasant, they are implied anyway. Three words doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly.
Her skin tingled as Billy’s fingers brushed the back of her arm. (12)
Elouise shivered suddenly for no reason whatsoever. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” She muttered to herself. (18)
Meh, it could use a little trimming and rewording.
Elouise frowned and rubbed her arms. “Someone must have walked across my grave.” (13)
Example 3. (I still write like this.)
Tod had never felt so bone achingly cold in his life. He was shivering so hard his teeth chattered loudly. (20)
Now I know enough to rewrite it to this. FYI the word felt is a super filter word.
Tod wrapped his arms around his aching body, unable to stop his chattering teeth. (14)
Do I never use the word shiver? No, it’s a fun word that evokes a personal response. I do use it sparingly or try to anyway. Sometimes a plain ole shiver is just what the story needs, especially if there is no established reason for it.
My advice about overuse.
Overuse can happen with any word, shiver is just an example. Make a list of ‘important’ words you see too often in your writing and then see how often you actually use them. Then see if you can switch it up or swap it out, but don’t jeopardize the story or the flow if you can’t think of a way to change it.
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