Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday's Focus: Finding Filler Phrases and Words

Since I just finished the final edits for my novel coming out in April, and am in the midst of editing my still-unfinished WIP, I thought I would talk a little about those pesky "filler words/phrases" that we all use, and shouldn't.

A filler phrase is the phrase you begin ( usually) a sentence with, that shows the reader what is going on. However, you are doing it through the eyes of the main character...again, usually.

When you use filler phrases, you are taking the reader out of the action of the story, and making her visualize what is happening, instead of showing her what is happening.

Let's talk about a few of these filler words:

1. to see:  I saw the truck run the red light, scattering pedestrians. Without "I saw:" The truck ran the red light, scattering pedestrians onto the sidewalks. You are in the action here, rather than trying to visualize it through someone else's mind.

2.  to hear: I heard the sound of glass shattering, and I knew someone had broken in downstairs. Here there are three different filler words in one sentence: I heard, the sound, and I knew. Without these filler words: The glass shattered, breaking the night's silence. Someone was downstairs.

3.  to realize: She realized there was no turning back, she had no choice but to continue on alone. Without "she realized:" There was no turning back, and no choice left but to continue on alone. However, in this sentence is also the phrase "there was", another of those You can do without phrases. So you could say, She had no choice left but to continue on alone, and do without the "no turning back" phrase.

4.  to seem or seem like:  It seemed like the class went on forever, and I noticed the professor never stopped talking long enough to answer a question.  Without "it seemed like" and "I noticed:" The class went on forever, and the professor never stopped talking long enough to answer a single question.

These are just a few of the filler words and phrases we all use in our writing, and should do without. Listed below are some filler words to watch out for. Add others that you have found to this list.

** to see
** to hear
** to touch
** to sound or sound like
** to realize
** to seem or seem like
** to be able to
** to look or look like or look for
** to feel or feel like
** to notice
** to decide
** to watch
** to listen to or listen for (This is sometimes necessary to the content of the sentence, but not always. Think of other ways to express your meaning before using it. Ex: She listened for his whistle, knowing it meant she was safe. His whistle came softly through the night air. She was safe.)

Remember that any and all tenses of these words count, too. We all use them, and think nothing of it, but if you go through your manuscript line by line, you'll find them. Once you do, try different ways of writing that sentence without using the phrase. You probably will be pleasantly surprised. I know I was, and I give all the credit to my line editor who found those fillers for me...and oh yes, a thousand or so "commas" that I didn't need!

Until next time,
That's a wrap.