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Words That You Avoid

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Laurence, Aug 16, 2018.

  1. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Come to think of it...those directionals sometimes feel to me to be breaking POV.

    If you have an intimate, close third person, that character's idea of sky automatically includes "up." They are practically synonymous. So if you say, "He looked up at the sky," then it's like a narrator outside the character characterizing the movement of the head, as if viewed from outside. He looked up (we are meant to see the movement of his head, from outside) at the sky (now this is what he sees after that head movement.)

    Am I making too much of this? I don't think so.

    Also come to think of it, a lot of other, better verbs could be used, and the sentence revised. He scanned the sky. He turned his attention to the sky. He studied the sky.

    Anywho.
     
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  2. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Leadership

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    There really aren't too many words we'll skip (if you're in the States you know which one doesn't get used). They're all in the toolbox and they all have their place. Though I do agree that some words are stronger in certain applications than others, and it's always better to strive for the stronger word.

    Funny thing about swearing, we have one character who doesn't use words stronger than "blast" and another who is responsible for Faerie Rising having 51 instances of the word f*ck. We swear in three different languages. I totally get not wanting to swear, and that absolutely has its place, but writing urban fantasy it's rather hard to avoid. It just naturally goes with the rougher setting.
     
  3. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Oh man, this is so the truth!!!! Dem has cleaned up my writing so much. I DO think that editing the garbage out DOES make for a more readable draft. It is more clear, concise, and direct. Not to mention when you are trying to stick to a word count it is a great way to free up more space for words that actually matter.

    And as much as people love to defend adverbs, for me it is a sure sign that I'm sleepwalking through my writing. When I search "ly" and try to change them out it ends up much fresher and more interesting.
     
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  4. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Ahhhhhhh! Yes! This! I think it depends on how you are writing the POV, but if you are writing in first or close third these sorts of sentences are a sure sign that you are too far away from your character.

    He looked up at the sky. He scanned the sky. He turned his attention to the sky. He studied the sky... all those, IMO are pointless and a sign of lazy writing. If you are in a deep POV all you have to do is describe the sky. The reader doesn't need to know he looked at the sky. If he is describing the sky than he is obviously looking at it.

    Mary's eyes were bright with tears and John knew he should be giving her his full attention, but the way the stars shot across the sky, sometimes five or more at time, gleaming green and purple and blue and leaving ten ton trails of space dust, he just couldn't give her what she wanted.

    "Your always distracted." She whispered. "It's like you don't see me at all."

    It was the first time, in John's experience, that she had ever been right.

    If you are awake during your writing, and in deep POV you don't need to tell the reader that "John looked up"... in ANY variation of the sentence. You just show what he is looking at and the reader figures it out for themselves.
     
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  5. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I agree, but I also think there are various levels of closeness, so some of those sentences would not be out of order in those and still be better than "looked up at," in a less-close POV.

    I was just thinking of "She sat down on the floor."

    What about, instead, "She plopped to the floor and crossed her legs."

    The weird thing about third person is that, no matter how close it is, there's still a narrator describing things. I think the most general advice would be to avoid making the narration too overt—unless you are doing an omniscient storyteller. What level of obviousness will depend.

    Edit: Incidentally, by the above post I'm just trying to get out of the fact that you caught me! :LOL: My initial "examples" are sometimes written too hastily. :cry:
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2018
  6. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    Good point. What words you avoid depend on genre. I do use crap although I don't necessarily consider it a curse word. But the others have no place in historical romance (because my books aren't gritty, they are sweetly toned). I also need to be careful with my language and in the way things are said so they don't sound too modern yet too old either. What's great fun is looking up old words and phrases for the specific time period the stories are in. Some of those are a hoot.
     
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  7. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    This is why, it depends. lol. I think if it is the POV character you are writing from, and she is describing her friend coming over, then sure she might say,

    "Sophie bounded through the door, plopped to the floor, and crossed her legs."

    But if it was the POV character describing HER OWN actions, I don't think you would use it. The POV would be much deeper.

    "I scanned for a seat. The only thing left was a lumpy cushion that someone had pushed off the sofa. It beckoned me from it's lonely corner and I found, once seated, that it was more user friendly than it looked."

    Do you see how the POV character doesn't need to say she plopped down anywhere? Does it matter? It matters when describing an outside character.... sure. You can say she plopped, she slid, she lowered herself gently, and they all mean different things. But with the POV character I think it is lazy.

    *Edit: But I would take out the "that".... lol. Then it would be more concise. I often sleepwalk through early drafts, then go back and fix it all later.
     
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  8. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Helio, I think we've long established our habitual differences, heh. You do the most intimate POV far better than I, and almost all my third person has more distance, even if not, strictly speaking, an omniscient approach.

    She plopped to the floor and crossed her legs. What was he thinking? As usual, he'd launched into a long explanation of Avengers: Infinity War, and she didn't have the strength to stand through it. A loose sequin beckoned from her sneakers.
    As usual, here's a hasty example that might not pass muster, heh. But are we now discussing Avengers: Infinity War when the discussion was supposed to be Words We Avoid? Heh.
     
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  9. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Too true. Too true. This is why it always depends. Lol.

    Sorry Laurence!

    PS: Laurence, nice to have you here :) You have started some very fun discussions lately.
     
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  10. Laurence

    Laurence Inkling

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    Sickos!

    Fortunately for me, Mythic Scribes was the very first step in my writing journey so ruthless Demesnedenoir editing is the only editing I know.
     
  11. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    It seems DemesnedenoirDemesnedenoir has become something of a demigod prowling these parts, on the lookout for -ly, that, and directional usage. Beware!

    :LOL:
     
  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

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    That -ly down yonder needs to painfully die.

     
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  13. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    Obligatory counter-point time...

    Huh. When I use an adverb, it's often because I'm trying to say something very specific, that there is no other word for. I know because I've tried to replace them, and haven't found it productive. Like any other intensifying tool, it needs to be used sparingly. And I totally believe that there's types of bad writing that overuse them, but every adverb every writer puts on the page needs to die? Nah.

    Maybe this is the fault of hastily-written examples, as it perennially is when we talk about style, but is that honestly better than:
    Like said-replacements, that's just dancing around saying something simple and intelligible. Is it really such a problem to let in that the POV character has corporeal form and isn't just a bundle of nerve-endings through which the reader peers?

    I don't know. Of course I agree with bad-habit avoidance on some level, but I feel like this is going too far. Pick up your favorite book and skim through - chances are, there will be "said" and 'that" and "had" and "was" and characters will look and feel and do things. I could go on at length, but I just don't think this is the first or last thing you should be thinking of while writing. I'm at a point, wrestling with my prose, where I value clarity more than anything else - cleverness, poetry, original bloody sentence structure. What matters is conveying the image. Words have rhythm as well as meaning--it's not a matter of adding up words like scrabble tiles, where punchy ones count a lot and "had" counts for zilch. The reader needs auxiliary words and directionals and yes, a little repetition sometimes for the prose to flow unimpeded.

    Perhaps this is one of those things that burns brighter once you've edited something to the bitter end. In the meantime, it feels like something that halts rather than helps.
     
  14. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Of course all this is true, and it is a matter of style, but when a manuscript becomes a long list of:
    He saw
    He felt
    He tasted
    He heard
    He thumped
    He drove
    He walked
    He knocked
    He sat

    It a sign that something should be fixed. When I see it, I change it. I do prefer my sample better because it shows so much more than simply thumping down. And yes, I do beleive characters are a bundle of nerve endings, because characters are people, and people are a bundle of nerve endings. When I’m at a party I don’t walk over to chair and consciously note my “thumping” into it. I notice the texture of the fabric. If it is comfortable or not. When I am writing my characters I’m trying to write them as true as I can get to real people, and most people I know are not thinking about their “thumping” into chairs.... unless it is done on purpose, I guess, to prove something.

    Even if I was telling a friend a story I wouldn’t use it. Try to say, out loud to someone,

    “So I thumped onto the cushion.” Does it sound right? Or does it sound sort of hokey? In real life, wouldn’t you say something like,

    “The cushions at Marta’s are super gross because she lets her cats all over them and they haven’t been washed in a thousand years, but it was actually surprisingly comfortable.”

    I write how I imagine real people actually talk, or would actually tell a story.
     
  15. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I like directionals. I don't think there's anything about them that's out of POV. I don't think they impede flow - if anything they help maintain the flow if there's a lot of distinct actions in a scene.

    I don't hunt down adverbs. If the sentence looks right to me and I don't even notice the adverb as reading wrong, then what would be the point of changing it? For the sake of it I searched "ly" in a scene of my Ladybug fanfic.... not counting dialogue, there's seven adverbs in a 1,000 word scene. I wouldn't change any of them. Take a look:

    She accidentally bit her lip trying to picture the look on Chloe’s face when she finds out.

    “I have to hurt him, Tikki,” Marinette began slowly. Inside her all of that happy energy, that romantic enthusiasm for her date with Adrien, began to turn against her.

    “All of my doubts are coming from me. I’m the one behaving poorly here. I push him away, and I keep him at a distance. I act like I don’t trust him. When I do. I trust him completely.”

    It was nice to see a bit of emotion from Tikki, who was usually calm with her wiseness.

    “Yes Alya, I’m ready for that assignment!” she said as loudly as she could into her phone while she walked past her parents going through invoices at the table. At the display counter behind them, Tikki was quietly sobbing and gasping, crying from a plate of macaroons.

    Every one of these adverbs adds to the sentence. It seems... wrong, to me, to demonize adverbs because some people don't know how to use them.

    Finally, I don't think there's anything distancing about plopping on a couch that works against the character's POV. I plop on my couch or bed all the time - I have four children and my summer life is one of perpetual exhaustion.
     
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I can testify that with directionals, excessive adverbiage (oh, but it should be a word), and the others mentioned in this thread, a professional editor will flag them every time and you're paying for that. So it's in your interest to be aware of them and to do the fixing before the paying rather than after.

    Of course, if you're not hiring an editor, you can let it all slide.
     
  17. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    WRT adverbs, I recommend reading From Here to Eternity. The author (James Jones) uses them more than any other I've seen. I swear there is one line along the lines of "... he said, adverbially." It's a serious book so I'm not really sure what he was about there, but boy howdy you can't help but notice.
     
  18. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    Helio, I'm writing medieval fantasy. Everything would sound hokey if I said it out loud

    I could argue about the merits of just saying "I sat" instead of detailing the decision to sit and the feeling of sitting and the result of sitting without actually saying you sat down but... It's like showing and telling. Yes, show. Yes, tell. If you showed every little nerve-nuance for fifty sentences straight, it'd be exhausting. If you told everything straight-up for fifty sentences, it'd be dull as hell. Either example could work, in context. Somehow you have to convey both meaning and texture.
     
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  19. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Well is it "I sat" or "I sat down"...?

    All of this does bring up the subject of how word choice, especially habitual word choice, can affect a style and a voice, regardless.

    My original point was not that saying "I sat" or "She sat" is particularly bad, but only that we don't need the "down." And even then, perhaps only when "down" is followed by another preposition phrase like "on the bench."

    I did veer a little later into the notion that different verbs may be even better, but this is because I feel that the added "down" (or, "up" if looking at the sky) is often added to make the action seem a bit more vibrant or descriptive, or to give it some emphasis maybe. But in that case, a different verb might do the trick even better.
     
  20. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    Well, it's "sat" for brevity when I introduce the concept, and "sat down" for emphasis at the end of the line. ;)
     
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