Friday, October 25, 2013

Just do it

We all have pet peeves when it comes to reading and writing. Over-used words, too much of a good thing. I personally don't believe in never-nevers. For instance, most of us have read Stephen King's On Writing, and were thereafter afraid to use an adverb for three years. But the complete elimination of adverbs doesn't work either, sometimes you need to say your character moved SLOWLY across the floor, and Stephen King can stuff it.

But yes, overuse of anything can be jarring. I read and edit a lot, and one thing that makes my eyeballs twitch is over-use of the word 'began'. And like the adverb thing, it's not a never-never, of course it needs to be there sometimes. But I think writers need to keep an eye on it, because I so often see things like 'He began to touch her' or 'She began to run' or 'He began to smile'. Well, did he finish smiling? Of course. So wouldn't it be more appropriate to simply say 'He smiled'?

He touched her. She ran. He smiled. If they did these things, then it stands to reason that at some point they began to do them.

I believe strongly in saying more with fewer words, as long as they're the right words. But sometimes the tone requires a bit more, and that's all right. Trust yourself as a writer, read your words aloud. You know when that adverb needs to be in there and when you can cut it. You know if the word 'began' needs to be there and when it doesn't, but sometimes these things become a habit we don't realize we're doing.

So pay attention to your character's actions, and watch out for too much of the B word. Because if you don't, the reader may begin to roll their eyes and close your book. And that'll be the end of your story.


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