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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Shiver

Obvious

Jeopardize

It’s funny you said that…

Originally, this blog was going to be about trapdoors, but that fell through.

Humor in writing is difficult. Not everybody has the same taste or sense of humor. Chances are if it’s funny to you, it will be funny to someone else too.

I found it’s all about set up. A well-timed joke or funny comment or moment requires foreshadow. Not the, hit your reader over the head with an Obvious set up, but something subtle.

The thing about humor is it’s personal. Not just to me the writer, or to you the reader, but mostly to the character in the story. If they don’t have personality or a pre-designed history the humor might fall flat. A sarcastic person is not likely to be droll but may use self-depreciating humor. A person prone to dry humor is likely witty and might lean on morbid humor. This is where its important that I know my characters.

Similes, metaphors, satire or irony are great methods of humor. A funny moment doesn’t have to be directly in the conversation either, it can be in the narrative or environment around the characters.

There are of course books galore and articles explaining how to be funny. They have some examples, but ironically are not funny in themselves. Or at least the few I attempted to read.

I found as I developed my characters funny moments just happened naturally. Conflicting or contrasting personalities helps.

Puns are easy, lazy and often work:

They were exhausted and ready to drop. As usual Carl was pushing them hard and receiving death glares from more than one in his unit.

“Come on boys bend like you actually give a squat!”

Larry leaned his head toward Cam. “Yells the guy doing diddly-squats.”

Cam snickered nearly losing his balance.

Maybe that’s funny, maybe not. I liked it.

My advice about humor.
Don’t sweat it, nothing slays the dragon of humor like overthinking it. If you’re stuck I suggest thinking about things that make you laugh. Next time someone says something funny write it down and think about why it made you laugh.

“It’s difficult to explain humor to kleptomaniacs, because they take things literally.” -unknown

– Sheryl

Other blogs you might find funny.

Silliness and seriousness

What happened to that guy?

 

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