Speak up!

There is a style within writing that is unique to the writer. Unless one is completely mimicking another’s style, who we are as writers leaks into our work.

This is called the voicing of the book. The way the story sounds when read. I tend to write how I would talk, so my narration is relaxed and informal(Third person, not first). This means I use contractions outside and inside dialogue. There is no hard set rule whether or not I can or can’t, so long as I’m consistent and it sounds or reads well.

Everyone has different patterns to the words they use, how they lay it out and how they tell a story.  The authors voice is important. Which is why I took the advice ‘tell it how you would say it’ to heart.

There are authors out there that have written books that are very similar, in characters, story line and even settings. But none will be like over another simply based on how they voice the story. I’m not a fan of ‘word nerd’ writing where every other word seems to have been plucked out of a thesaurus or from the list of obsolete words. Unless it’s a historical story, I dislike dusty phrases or words that frankly nobody uses anymore. I’m not an idiot, I know what those words are, and how to use them. However if I can’t imagine someone speaking that way, scrunch my face at the pages when I come across to many in one chapter.

I was told that my writing voice is good, and that it’s clear I’m not attempting to copy someone else’s style and therefore it comes across as natural. This was high praise and it was what made me think more about it. It also made me realize that I have no desire to write in anyone else’s style but my own.

There is a lot to be said about how to write, what’s proper, what’s not, blah blah blah. What it boils down to, is my writing is by me, for me and from me. I write to please myself and logically there should/would/will be others that like it too. I write what I want to read. I like what I write and how I write it. This should, in my opinion, be true of every writer.

My advice about finding and using your own writing voice.
Write from the heart, with your soul and if you like what you write, others will too. The bottom line… just be yourself.

-Sheryl

Other blog posts

Quirky little quirks

In the eye of the beholder

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 Crossing

Accommodate and contain perplexed

When I’m looking for a word to substitute for another, I turn to a thesaurus. There are many kinds out there and my recent trip to the bookstore left me perplexed. The sales guy gave me the world’s longest elitist spiel about which is the “only” Thesaurus to use if you are a writer. (And shame on you for thinking of any other). The Roget’s thesaurus. I get that it’s super and laid out in the best way, and I adore Roget. However I was just looking to see if they had something smaller and themed similar to the Emotional Thesaurus. (apparently that offended him given the utter look of disgust on his face.) I looked at the shelf when he walked away (Actually we were interrupted by another customer and he just bailed) *eye roll.

That shelf had hundreds of dictionaries and Thesaurus’s sort of organized. I looked at a handful including a few Roget’s but in the end I walked away. Not because I didn’t need or want to buy one, but because I couldn’t decide which worked best for me and I didn’t want to carry a massive brick of a book all day. (The bookstore was my first stop.)

The internet has a handy-dandy one or two that I tend to use when I’m feeling too lazy to flip actual pages.

Substituting a word with a thesaurus is a great way to stop repetitive words. However not all words are created equal or actually mean what you think. I always check the meaning of a word before using it when I substitute.

For example.

Dale was told to accommodate the others so he moved over to accommodate them.

The thesaurus first choice under the meaning “To make room or lodging”.

Dale was told to accommodate the others so he moved over to contain them.

Sure the thesaurus’s first choice said it means the same thing but that clearly didn’t work, so what about the first choice for “make, become suitable for something”

Dale was told to accommodate the others so he moved over to adapt them.

Obviously, I can’t just plunk in whatever word is listed, I need to think about it. Read the list and find a good substitute.

Dale was told to accommodate the others so he moved over to welcome them.

There that worked. I often find myself repeating a word when I write, it’s okay it’s just the rough draft. When I go over it, I don’t like reading repetitive words, they need to go.

I thought I would try a little experiment. If I looked up a word like say, Perplexed, what would its substitute be? Then what would that words substitute be and would they be even close in meaning? I selected the first word on the list and then the first word for that word. Here is what it looked like.

Perplexed

Bewildered

Astonished

Amaze

Affect

Alter

Adjust

Accommodate

Contain

Accommodate

Contain

Eventually it started cycling between contain and accommodate. I thought that was interesting. And contain has noting to do with the word perplexed whatsoever. Nerdy I know.

My advice about using a thesaurus.
Check the words meaning so the sentence still makes sense. You don’t want to leave the reader perplexed. It’s time to go toast marshmallows over the combustion abyss.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Perplexed
Massive

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

 

Other related Posts.

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Show and tell

Tag! You’re it.

 

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Shiver

Obvious

Jeopardize

Show and tell

Emotions are something we deal with constantly everyday. When I first started writing I told the emotions instead of showing them. ‘She was angry.’ This was lazy and hard to read. I read blogs, articles and some of the books out there such as Master lists for writers and the Emotion thesaurus. Why? Because showing emotion is a lot harder than saying it. Also because emotion generally fell within conversation and ended up at taglines. I read blogs, books and articles Learning more every time.

Here is a telling emotional conversation from my rough draft.

“Are you calling me stupid?” Erin said angrily.

Sam was glad the beds were between them and felt brave for some strange reason.

“No, but you’re acting it.” Sam said forcefully. She did not want to do this, but she was committed and had had enough of her nasty attitude.

“Insult me again Sam and you’ll be sorry.”

“I won’t be sorry Erin, because I didn’t insult you.”

“You did!” Erin shouted angrily.

“No, I said your actions were stupid.”

“It’s the same dammed thing.” She growled.

 As discussed in Tag you’re it this is a rough draft loaded with taglines and I’m telling the emotion not showing it. This is hard to read. Here is the correction.

 “Are you calling me stupid?” Erin took a step forward curling her lips back.

Sam glanced down at the two beds between them. “No, but you’re acting it.” She squared her feet and locked eyes.

This was not an ideal situation. Exhaustion and stress were wearing them all down. Tolerance for Erin’s rude comments is wearing thin.

“Insult me again and you’ll be sorry.”

“I won’t be sorry, because I didn’t insult you.” Sam took a deep breath exhaling slowly.

“You did!”

“No Erin. I said your actions were stupid.”

“It’s the same dammed thing.” Erin clenched and shook her fist slightly.

Emotions are hard to show, the key is to take a moment to think about how you feel and what do you do when you are excited? Do you jump up and down clapping your hands melodramatically? Does everyone? Not likely. There are those that do, but usually its things such as grinning, smiling, whooping, punching the air or clenching fists under the chin and hunching your shoulders. Everyone reacts differently and it’s important that your characters do too. Sam stays calm and defensive. Erin is prone to aggression and rage. However when Sam gets upset she reacts by walking away or pursing her lips while Erin would insult or lash out. Someone else might strike out physically without provocation.

My advice about emotions.
Like actions, they need to be shown not told. Watch others, ask others how they react to emotions. If you’re stumped try a resource, there are some great books out there that have better ideas.

While tricky, showing emotion draws the reader in and creates empathy. People read to experience a story so give them one to dive into.

-Sheryl

More about taglines
Tag! You’re it.

My thoughts on Filter words
No “Filter Word” Parking Here

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