Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writerly Wednesday!!! Words, Words, Words...Report #2 from PPWC

I missed my last Find the Story Friday!!!! (Although – it coincided with a #bloggerfail, so post may not have been there anyhow?) I’ll make up for it – 2 fun pics this Friday for sure!

How’ve you all been? How’s the writing? Revisions? Are you in love, yet? With your words, I mean. Because, if YOU love your words – chances are a reader will feel the love, too.


I attended a workshop at the Pike’s Peak conference, given by Epic Fantasy writer Carol Berg. You can find her blog and a great post on revision by clicking “here”.

The workshop was ALL about words. Words, words, words. Writer’s fodder. Words are the instruments we use to translate our dreams and ideas to the world. Clearly, VERY important!

A few key things that Carol brought up in the workshop:

CLARITY is key! Now this one may seem like a no-brainer. Obviously, we want our words to be clear to the reader. This doesn’t necessarily mean – simplistic. Carol said don’t be afraid to introduce a new word with enough context to be understood. You don’t want to pepper your prose. Know what the words you use mean and know the right context. Accessibility to the reader is the goal.

DULL words – it’s ok to use these when getting your story out. You can always go back and develop sensitivity in words through the revision process.

SPECIFICITY! This is a word that really resonated with me. I personally think you need to keep this word in mind as you’re writing and as you’re revising. Be specific. No sweeping generalizations, please! I struggle with descriptiveness in my stories and I believe this idea of specificity helps me with it. For example – you can have a perfectly ok sentence like this:

She parked the car on the street.

Or be more specific and write:

Clara parked her Corvette on the corner of Drury Lane.

Not the best sentence in the world, but version two packs a better punch, doesn’t it?

Think about OVER-USED words like: walk, look, smile, shrug, turn. I know I have an MC who smiles and shrugs WAY too much!! Is there a different way to say these things? Is it even necessary to say she smiled or shrugged or walked as much as I do? Think about body language in general.

And if you do consider actually body language and movement – answer this:

Can a smile actually creep across a face? Can you actually turn on your heel? Does one eyebrow actually arch? :)

WEASEL words: I’m guilty of using these, too. They come in several categories:

Vague weasel words: somehow, very, really, quite, nearly, sort of, just…. For example:

He wasn’t quite sure. *Is the “quite” necessary? I mean, he’s either sure or he isn’t. Pick one and don’t be vague.

SOMETHING and TRY are weasel words: something like, something in his voice, try to walk across the street, try to understand. Here again – be specific and don’t be vague. Your MC can’t try to walk – he/she either walks or doesn’t walk.

SEEM/APPEAR: (I’m seriously cringing here, people….”Bad, Donea. Bad!”) Per Carol, when it comes to these two weasel words – she says omit and just get on with the story. Be direct! Don’t hem and haw about things:

She seemed worried. *Ok. Well is she worried or isn’t she??

The business/pleasure of writing really is all about the WORDS. I know this workshop helped me. I hope my humble recap of it will help you, too.

Happy writing/revising/living out there today!!


Jess said...

I love that picture with the page hugging the girl :)

This is great advice. I'm guilty of weasel words and all the rest of the things you mentioned too. I really need to find a solid alternative for "turn" and "look" or just figure out how to omit them. *Addding several things to revising list*

Holly Ruggiero said...

I've been compiling a list of all these "offensive" words to check for when it's time. Thanks for some new ones.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I struggle with descriptions as well...

Angela Felsted said...

Great food for thought. Now I'm nervous about revisions when I'm still in the process of writing my draft.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Lotsa good stuff here. I know we get harped on about smile, but people smile a lot. And there are only so many ways to say they're doing it. *sigh*

ali said...

Ah, this is a great post! I am almost always guilty of all these naughty things in the first couple versions of my story. Eventually I think I manage to weed out most of them but yeah . . .

Great advice here!

Meredith said...

Oh wow, I needed this advice! My MC definitely shrugs and sighs too much. And I'm now going to be on the lookout for weasel words. Thanks so much for sharing!

Jeigh said...

What a good list. I use really and quite all the time. Thanks!

Bossy Betty said...

Thanks for this advice/reminder. I am really, really bad with the weasel words. (See?)

Sari Webb said...

Great post! Specificity is something that Nathan Bransford often talks about, too. And it is good advice.

Weasel words are often used in advertising. Like, "Save up to 50% off!" People get fooled into thinking they will save 50%, when really most items are discounted a lot less than that, or not discounted at all.

Carrie said...

Great points! Thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

Great post! Advice I've seen before, but so worth repeating. I know I need to see and hear something many times before it truly sinks in. Specificity, especially, I find really helpful to remember as I write.


Abby Minard said...

This is wonderful Donea! Great info that I need to heed myself. My crit partners ALWAYS comment that my characters look at each other too much, or raise their eyebrows, or shrug, or run their hands through their hair. I LOVE body language, so it's been hard cutting some of that out. I've also noticed I use those weasel words too.

Christina Lee said...

Durn-it, I SEEM to use APPEARED too much!! *sigh*

Michael Di Gesu said...

This was very informative, Donea. There is a lot of common sense in your/her words.

It looks like we all need to seek and search these words and "murder" them.

Amy Richardson said...

Great blog! I loved all the ideas about words and what ones to use. One thing that I always try to do it "see" what my MC is doing. How can I describe that? What would make it interesting? How would a movie camera film that? What specific things do I, as the writer, want to bring out? Facial expressions? Scenery? Emotion? That usually helps me to describe without too many of these "nasty" words! Good luck to all!

Kari Marie said...

Sounds like a great conference. I'm afraid I'm guilty of all of this stuff especially the weasel words.