Friday, October 29, 2010

Help! Murder!

Uh, no not really.  What I want to talk about today is how to eliminate those words and phrases that can really kill a story. "Eliminate"..."kill"...= Murder...sigh, oh all right, my attempt at humor failed.

So now can we get down to serious business?  What about all those extraneous words that we all use in our stories that we shouldn't?  Words like "that," "then," "but," "well," and so on.  We all know those, right?  Like the italisized ones in the sentence above.  I should have written: What about all those extraneous words we all use in our stories when we shouldn't.  Better?

Let's shift gears, and talk about phrases. How many of us have read something like this:  Her eyes followed him as he stormed down the walk.  What kind of image does that produce?  A pair of long-lashed eyes bumping along the walk?  Umm...really?

How about:  Her eyes were consumed with passion. Hmm.  The dictionary says "consume" means to use something up in such a way that it cannot be recovered.  Wonder what she did without her eyes when her passion was over?  Then there's:  He claimed he was telling the truth, but his eyes said otherwise.  Did his eyes learn to talk at the same time he did?  That should have been interesting for his parents.

She dropped her eyes in embarrassment. Excuse me?  I hope she dropped them onto something soft, like a bed or a thick carpet.

Here's one I just read by a favorite author of mine:  Unseeing, he looked out at the setting sun.  How can he "look out" at anything, if he can't see?

Here are some more:
Her emerald eyes mesmerized him. ( what was the rest of her body doing?)
Her smokey eyes blazed with fire. ( I guess her eyes would be smokey, if they were on fire.)
Her sultry voice grated on me. ( Why?  are you a piece of cheese?)
His voice came from a long distance. ( That must have been hard on his throat.)
His eyes caught and held hers. ( pair of eyes must have been running away to have been caught by another pair.)
Her heart sang with happiness.  (This is an old favorite...uh, what song was her heart singing? )
I thought to myself. ( Who else would you be thinking to? I used this phrase so many times until I finally realized what I was saying! )

 Enough, all ready!  The point is...when we are editing our work, these are the  kinds of words and phrases we need to especially look out for.  Think about yourself before you write something:  would your eyes be falling out on the bed or onto the carpet?  Or would they be on fire, or chasing another pair down the street?  The same with using voice or any other body part as the subject of your sentence.  It just doesn't work.

These are phrases we read...and write...all the time.  So much so that we usually don't give them a second thought...they are nothing more than cliches.  So be careful during your edits, and if you've written something using eyes or voice or another body part as the subject, change it.  Don't give an editor or an agent the opportunity to think..."she/he is an amateur."

Until next time,
that's a wrap.

1 comment:

  1. I've got some strange visuals going on here. :) When writing formally, is it still correct to include "that"? Or is that outdated now? Loving your blog, btw, Mikki.