Who Would Do What?

I recently spent a day at a theme park. It was hot, fun and full of a wide range of emotions. A fun little writing exercise I thought of while waiting in line for a ride has sparked today’s post.  My imagination run’s wild at times.

I like to think a lot about characters and how each behaves differently from the other. How would they react in certain situations?

More importantly, how would each character act if put in the same situation. It would be erroneous to believe they would act the same or all act the way I would have behaved.

I want to make sure I keep my characters individual as possible. That doesn’t mean that they can’t react the same, but that some would not. So how does that work? How can I keep enough variety?

I’ll start by setting up the scenario so you don’t have to read it over and over.

It’s a hot sunny day at a loud and overly busy theme park. The line up to get on to a popular ride is at least an hour-long. There is no shade and irritability is a common sound among parents hissing ‘stop’ at their children.

This particular ride is terrifyingly tall and raises the riders to the top to drop them quickly. Every time I looked up at it some would grit their teeth, some would pale while others would become excited and some nervous.  It has six sets of four seats in a row. Groups of people vary in size.  The excited and relieved people corralled in the staging gates are let into the area to find seating. A lone rider sits leaving a single seat open on a row of three unbeknownst to him. A family of four wants to ride together but there is only the single seat on one side and the three empty beside the single rider on the opposite side.

Example 1

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind moving to the single seat on the other side so we can ride together?” The father asked.
“Oh, yeah sure. I didn’t realize there was an empty seat.” He said getting up to move.
“Thanks, man.” The father smiled. 
“No Problem.”

Example 2

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind moving to the single seat on the other side so we can ride together?” The father asked.
The man threw his eyes up to the sky. “Fine. Even though I just freaking sat down and buckled in.” He said begrudgingly.
“I appreciate it man, thanks.”
“Sure whatever.” The man stalked off to the other side to sit.

Example 3

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind moving to the single seat on the other side so we can ride together?” The father asked.
“I do.”
“It would be nice.” The father prompted. “We’d like to sit together.”
“Not my problem.” The man ignored the protests of the children for the separation.

Example 4

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind moving to the single seat on the other side so we can ride together?” The father asked.
“Piss off.”
The tired family separated unhappily yet silently.

With each example, I had the single rider’s response increase in hostility. There are infinite ways this could go. The father could involve the ride attendants. The man could involve the ride attendants. They could get physical and evicted from the park. The ride attendant could get physical with the belligerent single rider.  The family could have been lying about the one empty seat and the single rider would have to wait another turn. Karma could get either and the ride breakdown.

How a person responds is as important as how a person initiates.

Example 5

“Seriously? Come on man there’s a single seat on the other side. We want to ride together.” The father said frustrated.
The man looked at the Father, seeing he was tired from the long day…

Again the single rider can respond in any way from polite to outright rage. This would depend on who that person is on a basic level. Unless there are extenuating circumstances well foreshadowed I wouldn’t have someone kind and calm, tell the man to Piss off.

Assessing the possibilities of alternate outcomes can also lead to possibly a more interesting angle, change the story or direction completely or cement the readers’ feelings toward a specific character, which is very important to do. If a reader doesn’t care one way or the other they might just stop reading or complain about wasting their time.

My advice about exploring the possibilities.
It’s honestly a lot of fun and if you take the time to try you might find a better angle or even another angle for another story altogether.

-Sheryl

Other reactive posts

What Do I Do About That?

What’s Your Story?

My Posts From The Start   

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Grit

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A Dash Of Skill And Nine Parts Of Speech

I try not to take things for granted. It still happens from time to time. I know the basics of writing and I know I make mistakes. Everyone does. I also know that not everyone knows what I know and vice versa.

I have A blog coming up that uses terminology that made me pause. Wait maybe I need to go back a few steps and toss in a refresher…  For myself and for anyone that might be interested.

Speech is part of life. Sentences, dialog and everything written contains speech. The necessary words that bring to life what we want to say. To do this we use words. Glorious, wondrous words. Only not all words are created equal. Not all words do the same thing. Some types of words have purpose.

There are nine basic types of words in the English language. (some say eight others will argue ten, and that’s fine. I’m going with the nine I know.) I went to Wikipedia to remind myself of the definitions, give my self a reprieve so I don’t screw them up and hear about it forever and ever.

  1. Verb – They convey an action (bring, read, walk, run, learn), an occurrence (happen, become), or a state of being (be, exist, stand). (Verbs are sometimes classified into two: lexical Verbs such as; work, like, run. Also auxiliary Verbs such as; be, have, must
  2. Noun –  They describe a thing or a person. Such as; living creatures, objects, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.
  3. Adjective –  They a describe noun such as; good, big, blue and fascinating.
  4. Determiner – They limit or determine the noun. Such as; some, many, an, some, and numbers. (These are sometimes classified as adjectives thus the eight)
  5. Adverb – They describe a verb, adjective or adverb. Such as; quickly, silently, well, badly, very, really. (Um… a lot of filter words are adverbs)
  6. Pronoun – They replace a noun with words such as; I, you, he, she and some.
  7. Preposition – They link nouns to other words. Such as; To, at, after, on and but.
  8. Conjunction – They join clauses, sentences or words. Like these; and, but, when.
  9. Interjection – I blogged about this one on it’s own!  An exclamation mark at the end of a sentence or the word “well” typically found at the start!

I know this is a lot to take in, and each have so much more than the rudimentary explanations above and the examples I’m about to give.

Example time

Noun verb   noun verb Verb
Amber sings. Amber is singing.
pronoun verb noun
She loves parrots.
noun verb adjective noun
Animals love good people.
noun verb noun adverb
Amber sings songs well.
noun verb adjective noun
Amber sings good songs.
pronoun verb preposition determiner noun adverb
She walked to the door swiftly.
Some fell on the ice badly.
pron. verb adj. noun conjunction pron. verb pron.
She hates big spiders but I adore them.
He loves chapter books but you loathe them

The following didn’t fit in a graph but contain all of the nine components.

interjection/  pron./ conj. /det. /adj. /     noun / verb/  prep./ noun /   adverb
Well,                she      and    my    young   dog     walk    to       town     quickly.

pron./ conj. /det. /  adj. /  noun /            verb/   prep./  noun /   adverb/  interjection
She       and    your   old     boyfriend     kiss    at         school    often      !

At this point in my life I’m comfortable writing a sentence and knowing I have the necessary components. I do think it’s good to refresh and remind ourselves what words are all about. Despite knowing them, I still pause when someone asks, whats a good verb for… or I need a better adjective for…

My advice about the nine parts of speech.
You might not need to know what they are to use them, but don’t presume everyone does. Not everyone is a walking dictionary. I know I’m not, which is why I’m constantly researching and learning.

-Sheryl

Related Posts

Hey! Its’ Interjection

Conversing is easy…not!

Exorcising Exposition

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My Posts From The Start

 Reprieve

How It Began

A few years ago I started writing my first manuscript. It is called BiaAtlas. I had no idea what I was doing or how I was going to actually write a book.

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to write and have had some exciting ideas, only I lacked the confidence. Every once in a while I’d think about how overwhelming it must be to not only come up with a unique concept let alone write it in an entertaining and captivating manner. I would think of JK Rowling, Stephen King, JRR Tolkien, Jude Deveraux, Laurell K Hamilton, George RR Martin, Jim Butcher and so many more beloved authors and I’d have a mini anxiety attack. How did they do it? How did they manage to captivate the world with their stories. How do they get the story from thier head to the page?

The answer is simple. They all did the same thing. They sat down and started. Sure there is a lot that goes on but you cant get anywhere if you don’t at least start.

I had bumbled around with the main concept of BiaAtlas for many years, slowly building up the world in which the characters live. I collected ideas and started generating the characters in my mind. One day while having a beer on the patio with my husband, we started talking about things. The subject of his music writing came up and I confessed to my secret desire to write a book someday. “He said why not? go for it.”

For another few days I though about it. Why not? The only thing stopping me is fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of humiliation, fear of basically trying. That’s dumb and I told myself that.

The following day, now that the seed had been planted, I took a shower. With my brain in “what if” mode the first sentence popped into my head. I said it aloud and suddenly it all came into focus. Holy crap that’s it!

Dried and dressed I raced to my computer and wrote that line down.

“No Joe, I don’t believe in superheroes.”

This sentence started it all and I couldn’t stop. It was a collaboration of ideas that drove me to write out a story that had been with me so long. I told no one what I was doing. I got three chapters in and was certain I was on to something. I told my husband what I was up to but wouldn’t let him see it until it was done. I finished the first draft in about three months. It was wordy, messy and in very rough shape. After all I had no idea what I was doing.

I wrote a book, now what?

Then the research began. I edited, revised, edited, researched a whole lot more, revised again and kept going until I was ready for some professional advice. One bit of that advice was to strengthen my writers platform. It is much more difficult to get published if you have nothing to stand on. Thus the blog you are reading now.

This blog is about my journey as a novice writer to, hopefully, a published author. I’ve chosen traditional publishing for many reasons and I will continue down this path until there are no other options left or I succeed.

Even as I blog, I learn and discover. I’ve grown so much as a writer and a person. I’ve found a passion that drives me each and every day to push forward through rejections, nay-sayer’s, de-railers and those riddled with disguised jealousy…the saboteurs. I embrace the positive and those that help by offering support, constructive advice and kindness.

Now I have more than 6 manuscripts written and a lot of work cut out for me. I’ll continue writing and working to achieve my dream of becoming published traditionally. I will never give up.

My advice to anyone reading this
look inward to find your greatness and move forward no matter how many obstacles get in your way. Persistence will pay off and never give up on yourself.

-Sheryl

My first post: The “word count” down.

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved
Collaboration

What’s Your Story?

Back-story. Background Story, History, Origin story, whatever you want to call it, it is what makes a character who they are before the story started. How important is it to create back-story for characters? Without history and experience a person is pretty dull and can become unbelievable.  Even if a back-story never makes it directly into the manuscript it’s important for it to be there.

A character may be a jerk, but why? Why is it important as the writer to know where a character came from?

To illustrate easily let me ask you… What’s your story? What makes you… you? Everyone has one and this should be true to wrting as well. Writing a generalized jerk is okay, but one that picks specifically on red heads and girls with freckles might have a deeper reason for doing so. That doesn’t mean I have to even mention the reason just that the character only ever picks on those two types.

There are several types of back-story. Here are some that I’ve used.

Influential –

The type that defines a person. For example Jill and Jane were raised in an extremely abusive household. Jill grew up fighting against domestic violence and has a tender caring heart, while Jane internalized and let the situation take seed. She now abuses her daughter and husband and has developed a dependency on alcohol and prescription drugs to cope. Not every situation has to have the same impact on a person. In this case I would have Jill actively speak out against any form of violence or bullying. Jane might be the one that causes all the strife in Jill’s life.

Small –

A minor character or even major one may have an issue with mustard. Perhaps they were forced to eat it as a child and sat crying at the table for hours until they choked it down.  They may not be actively aggressive or upset about mustard now, but they certainly wont touch it and my even be repulsed by someone who eats it. 

Ongoing –

A back-story that hasn’t quite ended. Someone may have had to care for a sick relative and has reached their limit. They are still caring for said relative but the manuscript picks up middle to end of the care process. This can be a great way to have a character spring-board into their journey. They may have to choose to end said relatives life out of mercy, desperation or loathing. They may love them till their last breath and on their dying words are told something that forever changes their life. This sort of back story would pop up often and easily lead to flashback scenarios. 

Trauma  – 

The back-story that causes major change or a huge shift in a character. A happy-go-lucky person, who is strong and successful is injured or loses everything suddenly. A family is suddenly cut in half by a tragic accident causing the protagonist to question their life. 

Back-story’s go hand in hand with plot devices. For my characters they have a story to tell. Whether its outright and part of the plot or arc, or if it’s subtle and shown in their behaviors, preferences and life choices. If Johnny has no respect for police officers and it gets him in constant trouble, there is a reason.

Keeping track of back-story is very important no matter how small a part they play. I use charts and lists to make sure everyone has a reason for what they do and don’t do. Does this mean a character’s back-story is set in stone? Nope, I’ve added and removed things to suit them and where I want them to go. But it helps to know where they started if I want them to seem real.

Minor/flat/static characters generally have untold back-story. The exhausted overly cheerful hot-dog vendor works 15 hour days to support his dying wife. The crying child climbing the shelves in the supermarket, driving everyone crazy, just lost his father in a plane crash and struggles to cope. Do I mention all those details? No. Probably not.

The Main/Rounded/Dynamic Characters will have their back-story come out at some point or in small doses along the way. They are after all on a journey of growth and change.

My advice about Back-story
Make sure everyone has one. Decide who gets to reveal them and who doesn’t. Keep the minor characters simple and express their back-story by very subtle means. It’s super annoying to be brow beaten by a paragraph delving into the reason Mike the mechanic rips off his customers. Just that he does, is enough.

-Sheryl

Other character building posts.

Who are you again?

Snoopy McSnooperson

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved
Climbing

Holy Hyper Hyperboles

I love learning and writing. There is one aspect of writing that is more fun than a barrel full of monkeys. Using Hyperbole.

Hyperbole is to make a point using extreme exaggeration. It’s also a fun word to say.

hy·per·bo·le

If I were writing non-fiction I wouldn’t be using hyperbole. They are generally used in fiction and media. They can add humor and character to a story. However, as with all good things, moderation is key.

Like metaphors and simile’s, hyperboles are comparisons, however, they are ostentatious in nature even ridiculous. It’s not recommended to take them literally or one might find the scenario quite hilarious.

Using hyperboles in literature shows contrasts. One thing is described with an over-statement and the other is presented normally. This is a catchy technique used to keep the reader reading.  For example, “He’s as skinny as a toothpick.” The overstatement is the toothpick and the normal is him being skinny. “He is skinny.” Works just fine, but it’s more entertaining to add “as a toothpick.”

Bringing a boring section of the story to life with a hyperbole is fun.

Here are some examples

I’ve said it a thousand times.

I’m so hungry I could eat a cow.

I have a bazillion things to get done.

I have a ton of work to finish.

His breath was so bad it knocked me over.

I think those make it clear.

So how about an example? Okay since you insist.

Amber stood before the full-length mirror naked. She poked at her still flat tummy and pouted. “I’m going to get as fat as a whale.”

Dale looked her over from head to toe. “What do you mean going to?”

She laughed, grabbed a purple pillow and threw it at his head. “Jerk.”

“You could put some meat on, you’re nothing but skin and bones.” He tossed the pillow back.

“I swear Dale you’re dumb as a stump sometimes.” She squealed as he grabbed her by the waist and tickled her ribs. “Stop, stop I give in.” She laughed and fell back on the bed pulling him with her. “I’m glad you’re not boring and tease me.”

Dale leered at her breasts. “Oh, I’ll tease you all right.” His wicked grin made her try to get away unsuccessfully.

I probably wouldn’t put that much into one conversation, but that was kinda fun. I know I use hyperboles regularly. Not so often, it’s annoying but there are times when a character is flustered or excited and spouts one out. I don’t know if I use them in narrative… I might have to check that.

My advice about Hyperboles.
Why not use one to spice up a statement so boring it put the entire world to sleep.

-Sheryl

Other posts by me with the color purple in them

Something different, something fun

Little Angelic Villians

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Purple

The good…

The good…

Good habits are generally part of a routine or a conscious decision to do something good until it becomes habit. They can be simple like brushing your teeth and flossing daily, or turning lights off as you leave a room to save on hydro. Actions that are done without thought that influence the world around in a positive way.

These actions are important in my opinion as they can round out a character giving them a more human appeal. I’m not talking about blatantly writing in a good habit over and over in an overly obvious way, but a subtle action that fits within the scenario and is maybe repeated with little to no attention. Unless I want the habit to be endearing I might draw attention to it, but not outright.

Good habits can also be seen as kind gestures or acts of kindness because they often are.

Good habit ideas

  • Never talking with mouth full
  • Using please and thank you consistently
  • Sneezing into crook of elbow
  • Wiping crumbs from table(any table) so not to leave a mess
  • Tipping servers
  • Consistently early or on time
  • Double checks locks
  • Lets others go first
  • Holds doors open for others
  • Gets or brings someone coffee or tea when they need it
  • Tidies up after others without being asked
  • Donates to charities
  • Touching someone’s arm or shoulder in affirmation that they are acknowledged or appreciated
  • Puts the seat down. (that’s for the men 😉 )

I can go on but I don’t think it’s necessary.

Sasha finished the last review assuring the presentation was perfect. She glanced at her monitor clock, eleven-eleven. She looked down the hall. Scott approached with his cocky swagger assuring everyone that he was confident and aware they were watching. “Right on time.” Sasha smiled as he knocked on her doorframe and leaned casually against it. “Come in.”
He sauntered into her office, leaned on her desk. “Nobody likes tardy, naughty maybe.” He winked. “But not tardy.” His grin split his handsome face when she blushed and looked down at the file she had ready for him on her desk.
“The presentation is at two. The clients will be arriving, probably by quarter after.” She rolled her eyes. “Will you be ready by quarter to?”
“Absolutely chief.”
“I’m not your boss Scott.”
“No, but you’ve been here longer.”

 …

Sasha double-checked the PowerPoint set up; satisfied it was working perfectly she checked her watch. One forty five. The light rap on the doorframe of the meeting room door made her stand and turn.
“Scott. Come on in.” She smiled as he entered. “Would you do me a favor and set out the pens?”
“Absolutely.” He retrieved the pens with the company logo from the cupboard as she covered the board mock ups. “I was surprised you asked me to do the layout for this one.”
“Honestly I don’t have time to do them all myself. And the Hollander account was more urgent.” She sighed. “Besides you’re the sexy one. I mean you have a knack for sexy.” They both stopped and looked at each other, her face bright red. “I mean sexy layouts.” She put the palm of her hand to her forehead. “What I mean Scott is you made the leather cuffs look sexy.” She stopped as he chuckled deep in his throat.
“I know what you mean Sasha.”
“Those leather cuffs are tacky I don’t know how you managed it.”
“It was a challenge. Thanks. I took a note from your book, they wanted trendy I gave them…” He tilted his head. “Sexy.”
She nodded. “They’ll love it. Sex sells better than cool.”

Scott
Always knocks
Waits to be invited in
Always punctual

Sasha
Thorough
Makes sure things are perfect so they don’t inconvenience others
Asks instead of demands

 I would carry these traits(good habits) into other aspects as well. Sasha would always ask for help or time from her friends or family. It’s who she is. She would also clean and prepare food for company for casual or formal visits. If she had to do something for someone else, she would take care to make it right the first time and double check her accuracy.  Scott may not be a major player but he influences Sasha’s development and even for a casual character, I would be careful to keep him consistent. Flirty, considerate and polite to a fault. His “good” habits might be self-serving in the long-run. Who knows? Well I do, but that’s another side-story.

My advice about good habits.
Developing good habits as a writer is definitely a benefit. Developing your characters good habits is totally worth it. Even if it’s more subtle than what I wrote, the small details will be what endears a reader to the story whether they notice or not.

Sheryl

Some old posts

Tag! You’re it.

Look at the source

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Urgent

It’s not always the obvious choice

We all know that one person who is daring, you know, the brave and adventurous ones. I’m not one of them. Or am I? I may not be the first to jump up for skydiving or leaning over the edge of the CN tower, but if I take a close look, I’m more daring than I think. With no experience, I wrote a book, an entire novel. I dared to dream, believe and put my work out into the world. I dared to take the leap and contact literary agents. I bet if everyone thought about it there is something in their life that makes them daring.

This is why daring is a personality trait I like to give my characters. Whether small by standing up to a bully or grand by running into a room full of hostiles to take them on unarmed, or fun by being the first to bungee from a hot air balloon.

Daring people like to be challenged, it adds to the thrill of it all. So a high octane character will be whooping it up and the first in most things. First to laugh, cheer and take chances. While on the opposite end I would have someone quiet and recluse, that struggles with fitting in.

Gavin stood at the edge of the cliff. He looked down and grinned as his heart raced. “This is gonna be a blast.” He checked his jumpsuit and with a glance over his shoulder, he saluted Sasha and jumped. “Woohoooooo.”
Sasha’s hand went to her throat. No amount of preparation had prepared her for this. She edged closer to see him freefall, the bile rose to her mouth. “He’s going to die.” The weak words barely made it out. He opened his parachute and swayed in the wind as the resistance on the parachute slowed his decent.
Valerie’s hand on her shoulder made Sasha jump. “You’re next chicky.”
“No. No I’m really not. I don’t know why I thought I could do this.”
“Ah come on, it’s fun.”
“My idea of fun and yours are not always the same. I’m not daring enough. I’ll just drive down with John and meet you at the bottom.”
“Suit yourself.” Valery shrugged, ran and jumped off the edge with a howl of excitement. Sasha’s knees wobbled and she nearly fell back.

Not jumping from the cliff doesn’t make Sasha a coward in everything. She can face a boardroom of angry clients and sooth the situation and loves scuba diving, snorkeling and skiing. Creating variable depth to what a person will or will not do, can create great foreshadow for something they might have to face in the future. Perhaps I’ll have Sasha forced to decide, jump from the plane or die?

Being daring is not always the obvious choice, like when you play “Truth or dare?” People often choose dare because the truth can be scary, which makes me wonder if it’s actually more daring then to choose truth?

My advice about writing daring people.
Some people are and some aren’t. It’s not black and white, even a seasoned military person might balk a the idea of walking across hot coals or touching a tarantula.  Have fun with it.

-Sheryl

A related post

It’s a love hate sort of thing

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Daring

Labor of love

Labor of Love

Every writer and artist dreams that they’re going to write the next <a href="http://Breakthrough“>breakthrough masterpiece. Then doubt comes along and the words “What if it’s not good enough?” comes along and dashes the confidence.

But what if it is? This is the question that needs to follow any doubt that rears it’s ugly head. I came to the realization that if I think it’s good someone else is bound to like it. If I think, it’s great however people will be excited to like it. It’s all about aiming high. If you want a six-figure contract, believe you’ll get it. Then do what you need to do to make it happen.

Success comes at a cost, not the Hollywood sell your soul to the devil cost, I’m talking effort, sweat and tears. I’d say blood but only if paper cuts are involved. 😉 It is hard work to be published traditionally. There are rules and procedures and it’s anything but easy. World famous authors know this struggle, sure once they get famous nobody sees what they went through just that they’re there now. JK Rowling herself says persistence pays off. If someone says no, try someone else. She was turned down multiple times before someone eventually saw the value in her writing. Imagine being those publishers that said no… See?  So, when I sent out a bunch of queries I rode the excitement/doubt rollercoaster, I’m still on it.  One minute I’m excited and I know someone will love what they see, then I check my inbox and nothing. Down I go. I remind myself it’s only been a week, BiaAtlas is good and I know it, so back up I go.

This whole experience thus far has taught me so much. How to be patient. How to write, edit and revise. I learned how to hone my research and fact check. I’ve learned how to determine good advice from self-serving jealously driven criticism. I have learned not to compare myself to others directly, not to look at them and say I could never be as great as they are. Why not? Who says so? Me? Did I say I couldn’t? Well shame on me then, because then I‘m the one holding me back.  

There will always be the naysayers the ones that will say or suggest you or your work isn’t good enough. To that I say look at the source.

No matter how hard or difficult this process has been, I’ve never been happier. The thing is I wrote a book, I did and it’s amazing that I did.  I had no idea what I was doing and I learned it doesn’t matter. You can fix the technical stuff later, but when you write from your heart and soul you have a masterpiece. When someone uses the term ‘labor of love’ I now fully understand what that means and both myself and my book deserve all the effort I can give it.

My advice about sticking to it.
People can tear you down, but only you can determine how far.  So dust off that old manuscript, sharpen your pencils and flex your fingers. Be tenacious, be bold and above all else be confident and create or revisit your breakthrough masterpiece then get ready to run with it.

-Sheryl

Related posts

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

The not-so-direct path to publishing.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Breakthrough
Tenacious

The ups and downs of writing

I talk a lot about redundant words or filter words. Words that are in general, useless and take up valuable writing space.

Up and down are two such words. Sometimes they are necessary and most often not. When I took a good look at these two I had
460 Up’s brought down to 274 after revision
250 Down’s brought down to 126 after revision.
The remainders were necessary.


For example:

He tied up his shoelaces. – He tied his shoelaces.
He set the mug down on the table. – He set the mug on the table.
She stood up. – She stood.
He sat down hard. – He sat hard.
The balloon rose up in the air. – The balloon rose in the air

Sometimes it’s necessary so don’t use the auto search and replace feature.
For example:

He let her down.
She cheered up.
The arrow pointed down.
You’re going down!
I’ll never give up.

Chances are if I’m using up and down I’m tossing all kinds of other unnecessary words in for giggles. When I find them I take care to check out their neighbouring words and see if anyone else needs to get an eviction notice.

Sasha set down the two layouts on her desk, stood up from her chair and walked over to the window. Looking down to the sidewalk down below she sighed. He was down there waiting for her. He wouldn’t give up. “Persistent jerk.” She pulled down the shade to block the view. Returning to her desk, she sat down, picked up the layouts and started going over what was wrong with them. (71)

Oh dear, I’m a wordy writer. Snip, snip… Time for a trim.

Sasha set the two layouts on her desk, stood and went to the window. Looking at the sidewalk below, she sighed. He was waiting for her. “Persistent jerk.” She pulled the shade blocking the view, returned to her desk, and continued to revise the layouts. (45)

I’m pretty sure her comment about him being persistent can stand in place of “He wouldn’t give up.” I am not perfect and even revising and editing my material, I’m certain I miss things like this. That is why I make a list of words such as up and down and use the search(search only not search and replace) feature and check up on each and every occurrence. Tedious? Yup you bet, but when you trim the excess and end up with something smooth and shiny it’s rewarding. 

My advice about up and downs.
It’s a common sense thing. You can use them if you want to, but redundancy can cost you professionalism points in the eyes of agents, publishers and readers. Consider the value of the words you use and improve on them if you can.

-Sheryl

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More is less, and vice versa.

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Value

Over used and oft abused.

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.

Example 1.

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)

Example 2.

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.

-Sheryl

 

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No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

 

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Shiver

Obvious

Jeopardize