Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Writing Quick Tip: Explore the Senses Without Saying Look or Hear

I've been toying with the idea of putting together a series of quick tips to improve one's writing. Here's the first installment. DON'T USE THE WORDS LOOK OR HEAR!

Why? You ask. Aren't writers supposed to use sensory language? The answer is yes...sort of. You want readers to be invested in your main character (MC), and that will not happen if they can't connect with the MC's emotions and perception of the world. However, saying "I looked up and saw him standing there" is a weak and repetitive sentence. If you look, you see. So what's the quick fix? "He was standing there..." Now make it stronger by describing his stance, the expression on his face, or how the sight of him impacts the narrator.

The same applies to "hear," such as "I heard the clanking of keys and the swish of the deadbolt sliding open." Rework the sentence to take out the word hear. Words like clanking and swish indicate sound, so the word hear is unnecessary.

The same rule applies to touch, smell, and taste, but these senses are less used.

On a similar note, another quick fix is to look for phrases like "I reached out and picked up." Just say "I picked up."

These are common problems in writing. Even the most experienced writers use these phrases. Sometimes it is easier, especially if you are in the groove, pounding out a first draft, but if you are in the editing phase and you use Word, do a search (ctrl F, I think. There's also an icon for it on the toolbar.)

Hope that helped! Happy writing!

-Beth

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