Filtering Filter Words

Filtering filter words post

Filtering Filter Words

Oh, those pesky Filter words. I talk about them a lot and for a good reason as I discussed in Filtering Out Those Filter WordsIt’s really very unnecessary and I’m ‘that’ kind of writer. Filter words are words that can easily be filtered out because they don’t have a significant impact on the sentence. They are crutch words that can make a sentence lazy, repetitive or even boring.

I will go through a story using the “search and replace” feature to highlight all the filter words in various colors as I mentioned in Well, color me silly.

Along with filter words I include are all ending in ING and all adverbs ending in LY. I also include exclamation points ! and question marks ?. Adverbs weaken sentences that have much more potential. I highlight ! because people don’t yell nearly as, much as they might be written to shout. Also, I try to limit the amount of rhetorical or narrative questions. In dialogue, they are fine, but I try not to pepper too many into the narrative.

So what are they? I have a long list of words that I have compiled over the years. Words that I tend to stick to sentences instead of better words. I lean on some more than others. Here they are listed in alphabetical order with the number of incidences that occurred for each within a book I’m currently re-writing, editing and revising. I like to multitask on the first modification of the first draft. The book is only 30,627 words, so these numbers are not too bad. I am looking to beef this story up and add a lot more words, but I don’t want the filter words etc. to drag the story down.

868      ing
566      was
421      ?
403      ly
343      that
174      is
158      But
152      up
145      know
145      said
113      look
109      can
108      hand
90       see
89       just
88       could
70       remember
62       think
61       head
60       eyes
59       Then
53       feel
52       very
50       ask
49       smile
49       than
46       !
46       hear
45       turn
43       down
43       move
40       been
36       – single dash
31       face
31       walk
29       try
28       well
27       bit or a bit
21       felt
21       knew
19       Really
19       saw
18       breath
18       understand
17       guess
17      reach
17       sigh
16       tried
15       touch
14       seem
14       sound
13       nod
12       grab
12       wonder
11       stare
11       watch
9        shrug
8        taste
7        realize
7        stand
6        hale (inhale exhale)
5        frown
5        somehow
4        able to
4        says
3        blink
3        however
3        notice
2        quite
2        replied
2        somewhat
1        ;
1        decide
1        experience
0        …
0        note
0        rather

Does this mean I get rid of them all? No. I will sometimes set a goal of say 50% or 75%. Depending on the word I may want to eliminate them 100%. It honestly depends on the word and how it’s used.

As you see some of those words had Zero incidences. That’s because I’ve learned. For them, they will probably stay put. I will take a look to make sure the sentence is good, but I’m not worried for any that are less than ten or zero.

The top five will always be the biggest offenders. The top ten are still the top ten. The next ten to twenty are worth taking a good look at.

I bet you’re wondering why “WAS” is up there? Voicing. Often I write WAS and IS interchangeable. I try not to do that. What I prefer to use is “IS” whenever possible. If I want WAS then I use it whenever possible. This is of course primarily for narrative, in dialogue the rules are different. I will try to keep a character consistent in their voice.

Action words such as, LOOK, SEE, TOUCH, SHRUG, SMILE, FROWN, NOD, etc. will be looked at carefully. There are better ways to describe actions and to show emotions too. These words are often found in sentences that TELL instead of SHOW.

If nothing more, I highly recommend looking at my top twenty. If you have a beta reader or if you use the feature on your word program to read your text back to you(This is awesome for finding small errors and sentence flow issues) If you use them you will notice words that you rely on too much. They may be on this list or they may not. But if you have words that appear more often than they should, it can put a reader off.

I keep track of the numbers for my own personal use. I will make a spreadsheet with the numbers from the first draft and recheck them (using the find feature) for each consequential edit or revise until I’m happy with the number of them I see.

My advice about Filter words
Find and destroy! Actually highlight them before you start editing or revising using the search and replace feature, then find a better way to write the sentence or find a better more valuable word. 

Don’t forget to check out and follow the Daily Word Prompt I host.Your Daily click

A Little Conversation Please

A Little Conversation Please

Dialogue and conversation in a book can be tricky. I happen to love dialogue and can appreciate good conversation. I talk about talking a lot. It’s important for a story to have good, believable dialogue.

There is a balance, however. Too much talk sounds unreal it can make a reader think too much or too little.  To little can leave readers bored. Dialogue is also not stationary. People don’t sit perfectly still while talking. They are always doing something. I know when I read if there is too much poof in a sentence and nothing happening I get uncomfortable and close the book. The idea of turning off a reader churns my stomach and makes me want to try harder.

Here is what too much talk in dialogue looks like.

“This looks great Tony, you did a marvellous job barbequing. You put so much effort into getting the steaks just perfect and the way I like them the best. I find that charming and sweet.”

“Anything for you Anne. You work so hard, and I know you don’t have time to do this yourself. So when I can cook for you, I do enjoy doing so.”

“Mmm, it really is perfect. I’m glad you told me what wine to pick up. I don’t know a rose from a white from a sparkling.. whatever.”

“The right wine does complement the food for certain. I know how much you love wine even if you rarely partake.”

“You do know me well.”

Soooooo…. yeah. Nothing happened, but a lot should have or did? I cant tell really because all I did was have some superfluous static conversation.

Let’s add some action tags and maybe a dialogue tag.

Tony sat across from Anne as she shuffled her chair closer to the table. “This looks great Tony, you did a marvellous job barbecuing. You put so much effort into getting the steaks just perfect and the way I like them the best. I find that charming and sweet.” She said and cut a morsel free with a sharp steak knife. 

“Anything for you Anne. You work so hard, and I know you don’t have time to do this yourself. So when I can cook for you, I do enjoy doing so.” Tony smiled and ate a mouthful. 

Anne set her fork down, swallowed and picked up her wineglass. “Mmm, it really is perfect. I’m glad you told me what wine to pick up. I don’t know a rose from a white from a sparkling.. whatever.” She said and clinked her glass with Tony’s as he held it out. 

“The right wine does complement the food for certain. I know how much you love wine even if you rarely partake.” Tony sipped and set his glass down. 
“You do know me well.” 

A bit better. Now they’re not statues. But the dialogue is so… poofy and weird for a couple. Most of that could go into a meaningful narrative or better word choices.

The narrative should be kept in the same tense from start to finish. That is if you start in the first person, keep it that way. No shifting perspectives. Now I’ll take that and add some narrative to set the scene and add some introspective to lighten the conversation load.

Tony sat across from Anne as she shuffled her chair closer to the table. When he had time, Tony preferred to barbeque a good steak and knows how Anne likes hers done. Any little thing he could do to ease her stress from work and put a smile on her face was worth it.

“This looks great,”  She said with a grin and cut a morsel free with a sharp steak knife. 

“You deserve a break.” Tony smiled and ate a mouthful.

Anne set her fork down, swallowed and picked up her wineglass. “Mmm, it’s perfect as usual Thank you. Speaking of perfect, the clerk at the store thought it was hilarious that you sent me a picture of what wine to get. We had a good chuckle that I’m wine-dumb.”

Tony held out his glass, they clinked, smiled, and both sipped generously. 

“I just didn’t want a sparkling pear concoction like you got last time.” He said and stifled a chuckle. “For someone that loves wine as much as you do it’s funny that you select purely on how cute the label is.” He blew her a kiss over the table. “While adorable it’s not a good pare with steak.” Tony sipped and set his glass down. 

“You do know me well.” Anne giggled behind her hand before cutting another bite of steak. 

So by taking out the unnecessary and unnatural dialogue, I put it into more condensed words and eased it into narrative outside the conversation. I also put some story into the dialogue to make it sound like they are talking about their day and not just each other. A couple isn’t likely to sit and complement the other gregariously.

When I write a block of dialogue and someones not giving a speech I cringe. I’ll edit, revise and revisit that chunk until I have what feels like a realistic scene. There are times when I write, and I neglect the setting, interactions in the setting and action tags. It’s important that a cement block of conversation be broken until it flows like a pure spring water creek. I personally wouldn’t be done with that last edit. I would go back and make sure each character’s personality shines and maybe set the scene with some narrative at the beginning outlining how stressed and tired Anne is, perhaps why. For simplicity, I kept the example short.

In Prophecy Ink when I edit and revise, I look for long strings of stale conversation. Sometimes its simple dialogue or complex. Either way, it needs the support of narrative, action and dialogue tags and descriptives. Even if talking on a phone a person can sigh, scratch a neck or pace.

My advice about Conversation.

It’s easy to plunk down the conversation to keep the story going. If it’s distracting to add the tags and narrative or actions do, it afterwards. That’s the magic of revision and rewriting. 


Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved


What Did You Mean? – Re-blog

Still in vacation mode and don’t want to be tethered to my computer. Therefore I’m sharing another blog that was posted a long time ago. Don’t worry my people watching opportunities have given me some ideas for new posts that I will write and post soon.

What Did You Mean?

I have read stories and books that miss one very important thing. Setting up an emotionally charged statement before it happens.  When I’m reading dialogue it can be frustrating to get to the end of a sentence only to discover my inner-voice was way off on the tone that the character was meant to be speaking in. I call this emotional tone delay. I read said dialogue, find out the tone I imagined was wrong then have to either read it or mentally replay it in the correct tone.  If it happens too often I like the book less and less and less.

How it sounds in my head as the writer isn’t necessarily the way it sounds in the readers. This is why it is so important to create a welcoming world for the reader to jump into. Show them tone and emotion instead of bludgeoning them with a tag.

“Really?” Amber said with excitement.

By putting the tag at the end, what ‘voice’ I read that in was voided. As a reader that can be annoying and then all voices sound out deadpan and the emotion is applied after the fact. It makes for some terrible visualization and fantasy.

Amber grinned and bounced on the balls of her feet. “Really?” 

Sarcasm is often lost in print if I want to convey a tone of voice shows the tone by posturing the character. My rule I’ve adopted from others: Don’t get lazy and tell the tone.

“Really?” Dale said sarcastically.  

Set it up properly so the reader knows it’s sarcasm or tags it with an appropriate action.

Dale inhaled slowly. “Really?” He rolled his eyes.

Creating the tone before the character speaks is important. This can be as long as a paragraph or as short as a few words. Setting the reader up for a smooth transition to the words lets them enjoy the story without having to “re-hear” it in their head before moving on.  So what happens if the set up is the wrong emotion conveying action?

Scott tilted his head to the side. “Really?” 

That could be humor, anger, annoyance, sarcasm or maybe tease. Normally in a story, there would be leading up to a statement like that. But I’ll pretend there isn’t and Scott’s statement is the start of the conversation or scenario. While tilting the head can convey emotion it is often a quirk or habit that without context could mean anything.

Scott crossed his arms, tilted his head to the side with his brow furrowed. “Really?”

Sure it get’s wordy, however, if I really want to show the reader how Scott feels then I will make it work. I might even take the head tilting out unless I have that as Scott’s quirk. I wouldn’t want everyone going around gesturing the same way.

Scott tilted his head to the side as a sly grin spread across his face. “Really?”

Scott’s head tilted to the side as he stifled a snicker. “Really?”

Scott’s fist slammed on the table then he tilted his head. “Really?”

If the tone isn’t foreshadowed by action before the statement, the reader will likely project their own emotion into it. That may or may not work out and may or may not put them off the story which in turn will mean devastation for the review and reader’s opinion of the story and author.  I can write words and have my own idea how they are supposed to sound, but if I don’t let the reader in on it, then I’ve let them down.

My advice about acting out emotion.
I do this to keep the reader engaged, I highly recommend it. Don’t let the reader decide what ‘vocal’ tone the characters are using, show them so the meaning behind the word isn’t lost. After all, you don’t want a character to move when you mean swoon. 


A post or two from a while back.

Squirrelly concentration at best

Time to take out the trash

My Posts From The Start

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Unspoken Dialogue

I write in the present day/somewhat future. Technology plays a part of our everyday no matter what we do. Computers, cellphones and anything else you can think of. I talk a lot about dialogue. What about unspoken dialogue? By that, I mean in the form of Text messages and emails or even a hand written note or letter (Yes people still do this).

Once I’ve established your dialogue style, I stick with it. I personally always use “Double” quotations with curly ends (Unless my blog changes it for some reason). Keep this in mind for my how-to-text-in-a-story examples.

I have read numerous books with both texting and emails in them. The presentation or content is obviously up to the writer. I would caution with over doing it however. Too much is a total turn off. A very popular (Though I don’t know why) book series I read had a lot of back and forth emails going on. With every single email, the author included the formal intro, message and the full and complete signature.  The signature was altered each time and was meant to be cute, but after the third one I got bored/annoyed and hated reading them. I do believe there was a significant amount of eye rolling going on.

If you are pursuing professional or traditional publishing, they will have a set standard to which they want this type of text displayed. Don’t worry about it, as long as you keep it clear and as close to what they are looking for.

Here are the rules I personally follow when writing a text or email in a story. I’m sure I’ll miss a few, feel free to let me know what yours might be.

Make sure the dialogue stands out from regular text. (Quotation marks)
Use this in place of something happening – the ‘review’ type dialogue
Keep the font size of the text the same as the regular text. 12pt is industry standard.
Keep the text from blending into the narrative
Avoid being overly repetitive (Don’t forget dialogue/conversation counts rambling sucks)
Use Italics
Treat it like dialogue
Identify the sender of the message
Use the alternate quotation marks for texts (I’ll couple this with italic)
Indent from regular text(I don’t always bother it’s not necessary)
Dialogue tags and proper lead ups to identify the text/email

Alternate fonts can be used. However, the industry standard (North America) is Garamond or Times New Roman. Alternate fonts may stand out but may not be the best choice. (Publishers will decide ultimately anyway)
It can make it narrative if writing in first person or it can leave it out and hint at it.

Example time.

Amber glanced at the screen to read the text from Dale.
Running late.
She replied. ‘CU soon.

“Sorry I have to check this.” Amber said and glanced at her cellphone.
           Running late
She sighed after she read the message from Dale.

“Sorry Scott I have to check this.” Amber said and glanced at her cellphone. “Looks like Dale’s going to be late. He didn’t say why.”

I looked down at my phone as it chimed indicating I had a text. Dale’s going to be late again and as usual, he didn’t say why.

Amber looked at the screen waiting for the response from Dale. When it chimed she nearly dropped it.
      Running late.
“Ugh be more specific.” She muttered as she replied.
      How long?

I simply prefer the look of italic as an identifier.

Emails are different, they definitely need a lead up and introduction.(nobody reads an email before seeing who it’s from.) As I mentioned before they really do need to have a purpose to the story. Without purpose they may come across as lame or filler. IMO.

Amber set her herbal tea down and sat at her desk. She turned her computer on and opened the email marked urgent from Dale. 

Subject: Today

Hey Amber,

Got in early, I’m heading to an impromptu meeting with Valery. Sounds urgent… as urgent as she can be.

The proofs you need are already on your desk in the to-do box. By the way, they look good. Valery has noticed your efforts. This project is a challenge but, you’ve got this!

Scott is in a mood this morning. You might want to avoid him today.

Dale Engleheart
Design & Revision Department Supervisor
Clifton Advertising & Design Inc.
Phone: 1-800-555-1234
Fax: 515-555-1235
-It’s not in the design if it’s not in the designer. – Anonymous

Now imagine a string of emails and every single one had that introduction, signature and sign off? Ugh. Talk about adding filler to bump up word count. It can look like this, everyone knows what email looks like.

Amber set her herbal tea down and sat at her desk. She turned her computer on and opened the email marked urgent from Dale.

Hey Amber,

Got in early, I’m heading to an impromptu meeting with Valery. Sounds urgent… as urgent as she can be.

The proofs you need are already on your desk in the to-do box. They look good by the way. Valery has noticed your efforts. This project is a challenge but, you’ve got this!

Scott is in a mood this morning. You might want to avoid him today.


If I feel the need to add the signature etc, then I’ll do so, it’s not a rule or anything either way. If I felt the need to add it I might, on the first one… Or the first of the that particular string of them, then never again.

My advice about nonverbal dialogue.
Whatever way you decide to identify nonverbal dialogue from regular dialogue, make sure to keep it consistent. Keep an example or your rules for this easy to access so if you go eight chapters without a text you can reference it to keep it in the same style.


Other dialogue posts

Hold your tongue!

Creative Dialogue Tags

Shhh… Don’t say a word.

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved



Here I go again on dialogue and the use of quotations. In line with the recent posts on proper dialogue structure, I wanted to talk about something I personally try to avoid.

Long drawn out speeches. They are notoriously found with the vain, boss’s, teachers and the villains of the story. The more evil they are, the more they like to ramble.

I’ll admit I often sneak around long speeches of dialogue. Ideally, conversation or dialogue should be to the point and relevant to the story. However, there are times when someone must prattle on or explain something uninterrupted. If for whatever reason this can’t be done in narrative and absolutely must be done in dialog, then omitting quotation marks in a long speech is necessary. (Unless like me, I break long speeches up with action tags and moments of descriptive narrative or other people interrupting.

I’ll demonstrate with two paragraphs (Two is the minimum for this). Because when someone goes on a long-winded gum-flapping event, they should be making relevant points that are generally independent of the other, but part of the same speech.

To do this I will omit the quotation at the end of the first paragraph but start the second with one and end the second with quotations like this:

Valery turned to the group at the table. “Okay team, settle down. We have a lot to cover and not a lot of time to do it. As you all know, Sasha has been away and will likely be gone for a while. You have all worked very hard to cover her workload and your efforts are greatly appreciated. I need to ask you all to continue.

“Dale, I want you to take Trisha on as your apprentice. She needs to learn your job if I’m to move you up to senior graphics as we discussed this morning. It’s a little more work, but you can handle it. Oh and bring George into your team for the next while to cover layouts.

“Amber, The Dairy Co-op account has sent in their new requests and they completely negate all the work already done on the account. It is an entirely new approach and the project needs one person to take the reins. You are ready for this challenge and I know you won’t let me down.”

Amber nodded in understanding, doing her best not to let her glee show. She’d been waiting for this moment. A chance to shine and prove her worth.

I’m not always comfortable using this dialogue punctuation and try to avoid it by assessing the actual need for this lengthy dialogue. Honestly, it could be easily be summed up in one or two narrative sentences. If I do, I am careful to make sure what is said is important to the story. That it is imperative. I’ll take this opportunity to remind the readers that Sasha is missing, that Amber is stepping up to the plate even though she was, up until recently, a terrible worker and person. If none of that was relevant to the story or character development, I would have narrated for sure.

My advice about monologue-ing.
If it’s necessary, pack as much relevant information in as possible. Ask yourself if this could be better served as a spot of narrative. Or played out in a more exciting way within the story. Oh and punctuate it properly please.


Other rambling posts

What happened yesterday?

The “word count” down.

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

“Inside.” — “Not out”.

I recently mentioned in a post on how to use Quotation styles. Basically, pick one and stick with it. “Double” or ‘Single’. Recently I’ve been looking at some basic rules, the roots of writing. (Yes, there are those out there that will disagree. That’s your right to.) These rules are not fly-by-night however. They are tried and true. They are found in most properly edited works.

The one rule break I’m most irked by is not keeping punctuation in it’s proper place regarding dialogue. To me this is important. Once I’ve decided which quotation style to use. (Always double for me) then it’s important to keep the dialogue punctuation with in the quotations.

For example:

Incorrect: “Hey Amber”, Dale smiled. “How’s it going”?
Correct: “Hey Amber,” Dale smiled. “How’s it going?

“This is the worst day ever”! Scott shouted.
“It could be worse”. Dale rolled his eyes. 
“Losing your car keys and spilling your coffee is minor”. Dale chuckled. “Amber puked on me, slipped in it and cried for an hour this morning”.

“This is the worst day ever!” Scott shouted.
“It could be worse.” Dale rolled his eyes.
“Losing your car keys and spilling your coffee is minor.” Dale chuckled and slapped his knee. “Amber puked on me, slipped in it and cried for an hour this morning.

I don’t enjoy reading dialogue punctuation outside the quotations.  Sure, this happens to me by mistake when I get in a groove and grammar and punctuation take a side line as I hammer away at my keyboard. However, it’s corrected the moment I start editing and revising. (Ideally).

*Amendment to this post. Other countries such as Great Britain use outside punctuation for dialogue. It’s not what I’m familiar with since I’m in North America. Books published from British authors are sometimes converted to the North American standard when published internationally. This blog and all that I write about are based off North American standards.

My advice about Dialogue punctuation.
“Keep it inside the quotation marks.” (Unless your from Great Britain or other countries that keep it on the outside) 


Other dialogue related posts

That’s So Simile

Redundantly Redundant Redundancies

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Creative Dialogue Tags

Dialogue is my favorite part of writing. Previously I’ve talked a lot about dialogue tags and how the world has a conflicting view on how they should and should not be used.

He said, she said tags are the most common and should be used more than ‘creative tags’ but even he said she said should probably be used sparingly or only when necessary. Thus creative ones even less so. Why?  because our brains are trained to skip ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ it’s automatic, we don’t even think about it. And while the occasional creative tag is warranted too much slows the reader down and it becomes noticeable.

I generally use a mix of everything but primarily rely on conversation flow (Sans tags) or action tags. Action tags give the reader a clear vision of what the character is doing before or after what they said.

Some examples of creative dialogue tags:  (these come after he, she or the name of the character)



You get the idea. Now here are some things spoken words or dialogue cannot do. I see these words on lists and in text and personally I try to make them action tags not dialogue tags or combine them.


Yes, there are instances when one may growl out their words or cried while speaking but plopping it at the end will remove the emotion or tone from the sentence and come across as awkward. Simply saying ‘She growled’ after the dialogue might not read to others as it did you me in my head.

Example time.

“I don’t feel well.” Amber murmured.

Not terrible but not great either. This sentence has more potential than this.

Amber rubbed her stomach and murmured. “I don’t feel well.”

or if she’s moaning the words…

Amber rubbed her stomach. “I don’t feel well.” She murmured.

While not good for keeping the word count down, sometimes it’s more important to relay the message properly than to over simplify it. Apparently, the word sighed is a big one that gets used too much. While yes people do sometimes sigh while speaking it might read better if it’s not so lonesome at the end of the sentence.

“Go home then.” Scott sighed.

I’m trying to convey frustration and while he might sigh the word go and maybe home, it may also look like he sighed after the fact. Reader interpenetration.

Scott sighed. “Go home then.”

Scott absently looked up to the ceiling. “Go home then.” He said with a sigh.

In these situations when I really, really, really want to convey tone in dialogue I read it out loud a few times to make sure what I’m saying sounds like what I’ve actually written. The best way is to have someone else read it aloud to you.

I don’t mind ‘said’ but I definitely try to use them sparingly or appropriately. Every dialogue sentence does not need them.

“I don’t feel well” Amber murmured.
“Go home then,” Scott said.
Amber rubbed her stomach, opened her desk drawer and pulled out the bag of herbal tea Scott brought her as part of a gift. A week after he barged in on her at her apartment and scared her he gave her a gift basket of things to help with the morning sickness she still had bouts of. 
“I have too much work to do. I’ll just go make some tea and see if it helps.” Amber said.
“Good idea,” Scott said.
“I’ll be back in a minute. Do you want anything?” Amber asked.
“No thanks. You go take care of yourself.” Scott answered.
Amber grabbed her mug and with the tea in hand, she went to the staff room. Scott watched her leave barely containing the smile that did not match the malice in his eyes.

For me it’s too elementary with all that ‘said’ going on. I feel like the dialogue is separated from the action too. When I read I find it tedious I like to mix them.

Amber rubbed her stomach and murmured. “I don’t feel well.”
Scott absently looked up to the ceiling. “Go home then.” 
“I have too much work to do. I’ll just go make some tea and see if it helps.”
Scott watched her open her desk drawer and take out the bag of herbal tea.
“Good idea.” 
A week after he barged in on her at her apartment and scared her he brought her a gift basket of things to help with the morning sickness she still had bouts of. 
Amber grabbed her mug. “I’ll be back in a minute. Do you want anything?” 
“No thanks. You go take care of yourself.”
With the tea and mug in hand, she went to the staff room. Scott watched her leave barely containing the smile that did not match the malice in his eyes.

Sometimes when I’m rushing I’ll plop out dialogue in the, he said she said constantly way. Then I’ll go back and dress it up better in editing. While I love a good creative dialogue tag It’s a balanced blend of the classic ‘he said’ action tags, no tags and creative dialogue tags that will help a story flow. “IMO of course.” She said and winked.

My advice about creative dialogue tags.
Whether the person is murmuring, sighing or crying. Make it clear if it’s before, during or after the spoken words. Read out loud or have someone else read it to you. It helps.


Related posts

How did that sound?

Tag! You’re it.

Show and tell

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How did that sound?

When I read words I speak them in my mind’s voice. It’s fascinating when you read something that has the power of suggestion behind it changing the voice automatically for you. This can be an image or description or pre-dialogue dialogue tag.

Establishing a character’s physical image is as important as what they might sound like when speaking. Do they have a deep voice, high-pitched, nasally, squeaky or are they flat and toneless? Do they stutter, pause or speak with a rhythmic flow?  Do they have an accent or local dialect? Are they male or female? Working this into the story is as important as what color hair and eyes they have. I keep my accented people to a minimum. I have no trouble announcing their accent in narration or by a character flat-out commenting on it. I don’t hammer that home every time they talk though.

For example.

Dale leaned over to whisper in Amber’s ear, “Coast is clear.”
Amber got up to sneak off to her hideout to steal a moment of sanctuary from the world and Scott.

Automatically the voice is male and whispered. Same goes for shouting, yelling, or any other intonation that can be tagged to the dialogue.

Valery flopped back on the couch. “I doubt it.”
Jackson licked his lips and lowered his voice to a sultry tone. “I’m going to make you beg, then scream my name.”
“We’ll see about that,” Valery said as Jackson leaned in to bury his face in her neck.

Chances are, you applied the correct tones to the voices in your minds voice. This is why it’s important I’m careful not to drop the ball when writing. I’ve talked about the importance of dialogue and action tags to convey correct emotional tone before, but it is just as important to make sure the correct voice is heard as well.

Now for fun if you were to read  “The sun blazed its way across the azure sky. Scorching the Earth to a barren wasteland. It steals the last remains of water from the small lake; condemning all that depend on it to either move on or perish.”

Meh boring right? now try it with this dialogue tag.

Sir David Attenborough gestured around himself and took a deep breath before continuing his narration. “The sun blazed its way across the azure sky. Scorching the Earth to a barren wasteland. It steals the last remains of water from the small lake; condemning all that depend on it to either move on or perish.”

Unless you don’t know him, chances are you read that in a lovely Male British accent in your minds voice.

This effect is quite powerful when an image is shown near or within the dialogue or quote. A novel, however, is not a picture book. So it is up to the writer to paint the image of the speaker. Hopefully, it is done before dialogue starts or quickly during.

If a character has an accent or specific dialect stick to it. However, a word of caution, saying they speak in an accent over ad over or remarking on it in dialogue or narration is lazy and irritating if done too often. I have a character in BiaAtlas with a southern accent. I give her simple dialogue cues to remind the reader instead of bashing them over the head by saying ‘she said in her accent’. I’ve already established at the beginning she has a light melodic voice with a soft southern accent. So as the story progresses I make sure to include sayings, phrases, catchwords, slang and the very, very occasional narrative reminder.

A word of caution, even if I think I know enough about an accent or local dialect I don’t. I do research and lots of it.  It’s a fine balance too over the top and the reader will not respond favorably. If a word needs to be spelled phonetically to force the reader to read the accent, I’m super careful about that. It can become confusing and frustrating to read if it’s too much or too often. I’m personally okay with the occasional phonetic reminder, but consistency is key.

Not all characters need to have something remarkable about the way they sound. Male or female and young or old is often enough to get a reader through happily. This is another example of too much of a good thing can spoil the outcome.

My advice about assigning a voice.
Once you set up a character describe their speaking voice. If it’s unique or important to the story make that clear. The reader will establish their own version of the voice in their head and as long as they know who is speaking it’s more likely to be applied. Less is more in this case IMO.


Other related posts

Speak up!

Don’t say my name!

What did you mean?

Tag! You’re it.

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Disclaimer: Neither Sir David Attenborough nor Morgan Freeman said any of the words above. I wrote them specifically for this post and just for fun.



Don’t burn the turkey!

Some would say there is a fine, delicate and balanced skill to cook the perfect turkey. The same goes for writing a book. Fresh or frozen(Genre)? How do I dress it(Content)? What temperature and for how long(Word count and style)? Moreover, how often to baste(Revise and edit)? Sure, that’s all fine and dandy for the poultry but how does that apply to my book? I need to pick the genre (Or write the genre my heart picks) Books take a lot of prep work, (even if that prep happens throughout.) Editing and revision is important, but how many times do I edit and revise? How do I know when it’s done and to take the book out and serve it to my readers?

For me I had some guidelines, a list of things I needed to accomplish.

Story flow
Word count reduction
Filter words removal(Started doing this one word at time)
Foreshadow check and instillation
POV check and correction
Action tag revision (Show not tell)
Dialog tag revision (Show not tell)

I ended up revising and reviewing BiaAtlas many times. I had others review it for me and point out the obvious, such as misspelled words (that are technically not misspelled), but clearly wrong. And then I revised again.

Word count became by biggest challenge. As a first time writer and this being my very first book it had to, I mean had to, be within an industry standard word count.

When I finished my first draft I found out my book was 15,000 words over the maximum allowable of 125,000.  Then as I went along and got it down to 125,000 with a lot of work.  I sought professional consultation and the consensus is, it needed to be below 120,000.  That was 5000 more to remove from a book I thought was done.

A little discouraged, yet determined I went about checking filter words and checking carefully for verbose descriptions. During this final review, I discovered one thing that I was stupid kinds of excited about and embarrassed over. I was up to this point reviewing one word or issue at a time. I’m not a professional editor to look for multiple infractions at a time… unless… as discussed in “Well colour me silly” I had a stroke of good fortune and had the idea to highlight all the potential trouble words at one time.

Holy Smokes! It worked!

By making all the words that might indicate a POV change or sentence issue, I was able to do one final and successful edit. I have only 704 words left to remove and 23 more chapters to go.

I made a list( A long list) Of words I know are filter, overused and issue words and made them stand out with bright colours. I made an excel file list with each chapter, the word count, how many were removed per chapter(entered as I finished), how many I had to go(This column was encouraging) and on average how many words I need to remove per chapter to achieve my goal(this changed with each line to reflect previous chapter edits)

As long as I stayed close to or over the removal average things moved along smoothly.

Now I will keep going and finish reviewing each chapter until I’m done and the further below that magic number I can get, the better chances I have of getting a Literary agent to look closer at my work and take me seriously.

I found there was some repetitiveness and verbose sentences that were easily reconstructed to lower word count and I’m beyond happy with how BiaAtlas now reads and flows.

So for me I know that BiaAtlas is nearly done roasting. Once I’m done getting the word-count down below 120,000 I will stop, take it out of the oven and let it rest(query more agents) and serve it to my guests(Get it published).

So thank you to all that bother to read, comment and like my blog posts. I appreciate every single one of you.

— an update since I pre-wrote this post on Sunday. I have 8 chapters left and I am now 233 words below the max!!  Woot woot! Now to keep going, the rest is just gravy.

My advice about not overdoing the editing.
Draw a finish line and stick to it. Know when to stop and say it’s done, potential imperfections and all. My finish line changed, I thought the turkey was done but the professional thermometer said otherwise. I adjusted and redrew my line. This time it’s firm and I’m very excited.


Related blogs

Well colour me silly

The “word count” down.

I’m ‘that’ kind of writer

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved