Words to Avoid & Why – pt.2
There are certain words we writers fall into the habit of using to help explain when something isn’t exactly certain. However, the overuse of these terms makes for limp action 😉
The words listed below are just the most common examples; they are by no means the only words used in this capacity.
Appear(ed) The lights appeared to flicker on and off.
Seem(ed) It seemed like the darkness would last forever.
Became When day became night…. / It became clear we were going nowhere.
Now consider the impact of the new sentences below:
The lights flickered on and off.
The darkness lasted forever.
When day transformed into night…. / We were going nowhere.
The most common response to reading the difference between the first option and the second is, “But that’s not what I meant. I want there to be uncertainty.”
My standard response, “Okay. But the more uncertain your narrator/character is, the weaker the connection the reader has with the story.”
More often than not, a straightforward statement will make a bigger impact on your reader. These options still carry uncertainty, just in a more active way.
Like I mentioned in part 1, it’s not that you can’t EVER have these words in your prose – sometimes they get across exactly what you mean when you mean it. However, the stronger and clearer your prose, the more active and engaging the story is.
Editors can only guide writers toward an understanding of the craft and what is known about the perceptions of readers. If this kind of fine-tuning wasn’t necessary, it wouldn’t be suggested. Ultimately, it is the author’s choice whether to accept a suggestion or leave the prose as is. Remember, you are in control – especially if you decide to self-publish. But try to be open minded when it comes time to edit your work. Save past drafts. If you don’t like the newer, crisper, version then simply refresh the previous draft.
However, if you find your work being rejected more than you would like, I would suggest taking a second look at where you can tighten your prose.