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

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Featured Image -- 9308Who knew some simple and overused words can cause a sentence to flop. I didn’t until I found out that I was plagued by them. Filter words are words that are useless and often change the tone of the sentence or even put it in the wrong perspective. They filter the sentence through the point of view of the character and it makes for awkward reading.  It’s a lot like parallel parking. You have a beautiful street with perfectly parked cars. Then along comes a couple rusty lemons that cram on in there, crooked and parked to close to the bumpers of other cars. It’s annoying, unsightly and can cause problems.

Example: Phillip saw the motorbike go by way too fast and thought it was so loud, he felt it in his teeth.
Filter words:  saw, way, thought, and felt.
Correction: The sound of the engine vibrated Phillips teeth as the motorbike sped by.
From 21 words to 13. It may not be how you would rewrite it, but that’s okay.

Clearly, they can be a pain. So what did I do about them?

First, I searched for lists of Filter words, super easy to do.
Second, I used the search feature and one by one went through finding all of them. I evaluated the sentence and either removed, replaced or rewrote the sentence. This took weeks to do.

After a while, I would come across a sentence like the example above. I learned to recognize the poorly parked words, and pull them all out all at once. There were times when I would revisit a sentence a few times because of different words and I would laugh at myself, fix it properly, and keep going.

This filter word removal was incredibly useful. It allowed me to see and familiarize myself with the useless words and learn not to use them. (That’s the theory, I’ll probably still use them.) I was able to take my word count down to a reasonable level by removing and replacing these words.

Here are some of the ones I overused.

Saw – 139
Thought – 212
Know – 414 (knowing, Know, and knows)
See – 244 (Seen, seeing, sees)
Had – 653

I discovered the trick with filter words is to go right to the root. Instead of searching all the variables as with Know, knowing, known, knows, I only searched “Know” and got them all. So for, looked, looks and looking I searched “look”. You get the idea. Tedious yes, but man, it was fun to shape and reshape my sentences.

Did I have to get rid of all of them? No of course not, just the ones that snuck in and didn’t belong. I still have a few to go through, however, they are minor and seem to be within a conversation. As long as it’s how that character speaks I’m fine leaving them.

My advice about filter words.

I found it easier to use the “find” feature, and search and repair one by one. Don’t sweat them as you write I didn’t. This is part of what I call the “shampoo process of editing”. I can’t speak for other writers, but by the end, you might just find a bunch of unwanted words parked in your sentences. Don’t worry about it, they will help you write better as you pull them out. At least they did for me.

-Sheryl

 

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