When in the process of splashing out words for a new story, we all find ourselves writing words we don’t need, repeating words, and being hacks in general. I’ve composed a list of these ‘filler’ words that I’ve found most often in my own work. Search for, and delete!
Very: Delete any that aren’t in dialogue.
Almost: Delete unless it is specifically necessary for a thing to almost be, instead of just being.
Nearly: same as above
Really: Delete if it’s being used as an adverb, unless in dialogue.
Still: When used to show something is continuing, you can delete it 90% of the time. To show something is motionless, often you can use a better word. (I bet you’ve used ‘still’ a dozen times for that already.)
Toward: Can almost always be changed to ‘at’ or ‘to’ or be removed.
Turn: My characters are constantly turning this way and that (even turning toward things!) and most of it is unnecessary.
Feel/felt: Jane felt the water lapping gently at her feet. versus The water lapped gently at Jane’s feet. The only reason to say feel/felt is if the character wasn’t feeling it before and now is, otherwise it is sort of taken for granted that they can feel it…
Watch/see/saw: Same as above. Unless there is a real need to make it clear that the something is visible to your character, it is kind of assumed that the viewpoint character can see what you are describing. Jane saw and heard the waves splashing, and felt them lap her toes. Seems silly now, right?
This is the epitome of genius. Nabokov must have some kind of freak literary gene that makes him so good with words. This is one of the few books I’ve wanted to start reading again the moment I reached the end. (I think Lolita was another…)
On the surface, Pale fire is a 999 line poem book-ended by an introduction and commentary by it’s editor and publisher. But between the lines, it is a hilarious journey into the mind of a delusional narcissist.
It’s hard to say much about this book other than it is brilliant, subtle, and such a wondrous feat that I sometimes wonder if Nabokov was not a plain old mortal human like the rest of us, but instead an incarnation of writing itself.
I feel lucky to be alive in a time when this book exists. Read it!
My novella has some pictures in it, and strange things done with the formatting. I wonder how that will go over or who will like and dislike it…
I need to take one more picture to stick in there, and finish editing of course, then I will get to hear from some readers whether all these strange things I’ve done work or not.
Here’s hoping! At least they are easy to take out if they don’t go over well.
I’ve started listening to the Picture of Dorian Gray, and it has a lot of intriguing dialogue so far.
I like that Dorian is so jealous of the painting even right from the start. That it will stay young and he will get old is such a painful idea for him, that he brings it up even a few days later, to say that the painting is already days younger than he is.
I never thought about aging when I was 20 years old… so this Dorian is quite the vain person to be worrying about it so young…
Which may seem like a good problem to have, except I’m supposed to be editing.
Since I finished my novella, I’ve written five short stories, and just signed up to write another… and I’ve only edited, partially, one chapter of my novel.
I know I need to focus on editing, or the writing was for nothing, but it is terribly difficult to stop creating.
So I give in and will try to do both at once! Editing doesn’t take much, if any, creative powers, so I’ll try to write new things and edit old things alternately, and on the same day even… maybe at the same time? 😮
Good luck to me :s
The ‘sentence’ in that caption, is perfectly clear to young people today (and getting-old types like myself, too), even without the context of the picture. Yet, as little as 20 years ago it would be complete nonsense, and 20 years from now it will probably rejoin the incomprehensible. But we also have classics written hundreds of years of go that people still read with complete clarity today, and books written today that would be easily understood by people of centuries past.
It’s like we have two languages, one solid and long lasting, and another ephemeral and ever-changing. The second language experiments, invents and changes–while the main language stays as strong as it can. This allows us to maintain comprehensibility over the generations, while still allowing for evolution–since the best words created by the second language will make it into the main language eventually.
Creating new words is fascinating and cool to watch–but changing current words kind of grinds my gears. I know everyone on the internet and their moms and dogs have all had their say about how dumb it is that ‘literally’ now literally means figuratively, because people used it hyperbolically so often. The problem with this is that instead of creating a new word, we lost a word. Because ‘literally’ no longer means ‘I am not exaggerating or being metaphorical but am actually saying this.’ Now it means ‘maybe I mean this, maybe I don’t. You have to guess by the context.’ We have lost a word for that situation where we want to make it clear we are being literal. We still have ‘actually’ but who knows how long that will last. ‘Literally’ has lost its hyperbolic power, so now people might start saying “I laughed so hard I actually died.”
A similar thing happened to ‘begs the question,’ which people say when they mean ‘raises the question.’ Though, this was not due to being hyperbolic, but to people trying to sound smart and not knowing the meaning of what they were saying.
This kind of ‘change by misuse’ irritates me. But what can you do? Just be irritated, I guess!
Here are a couple more things people do with words that annoy me!
Writing voila as wala: Of course one might leave the accent off foreign words when typing them, but this is just too much.
Saying you could care less when you mean you couldn’t care less: Saying you COULD care less means that you actually care. You could care a huge amount for all I know.