The Writer's Life

The Writer’s Life: Deadly Writing Sins Series (Entry #1)

Written by The Novel Gent

Breathy, Croak, Thin, Said, Saw, Very, Just, Just, Just, Just, Just, Just….

You see any similarities between these words, Writers? Lemme give you all a little hint: They are overused and abused, can reduce and suck the color and life out of writing. Yes, my friends, behold a few of the words that are just (ouch, that dreaded word “just” which seems to manifest in every other paragraph of our books and stories) as deadly to quality writing as run-on sentences and not keeping with tenses.

Let us take a journey through some colorful alternatives to using the deadly cliched words in your writing.

1.) Instead of writing, “Very”, try to expand upon the thing you are already trying to describe with greater detail by seeing how you can amplify the intensity of your adverbs and adjectives.

For example ~
Instead of saying VERY afraid try terrified/petrified
Instead of saying VERY angry try furious/fuming
Instead of saying VERY bad try atrocious/noxious
Instead of saying VERY big try immense
Instead of saying VERY bright try dazzling/blinding

There is another tip for not using the well-used word “very.” Simply think deeper about the context of your scenes, characters, stories, and settings. If you are tempted to write something like, “The boy was very rude.” This may to some readers come across as  juvenile and amateur. Second, imagine what the boy is supposedly doing that is so rude?
Is he being a menace? Pranking people? Being a bully? Is he being vulgar? How is he being vulgar? Is he making dirty jokes or is he making lewd gestures? Narrow down the possible behaviors that the word “rude” implies to eliminate the need to use the dreaded word “very.” Also add more detail and visual stimuli to your writings.

2.) Next, how do you describe how your character’s interaction with their environment, without using cliched words like: said and saw?

Instead of saying “said” try any one of the following words: called, shouted, cried, whispered, responded, remarked, demanded, questioned, asked, replied, stated, exclaimed, moaned, lied, whined, whimpered, pouted, maintained, confessed, enunciated, prompted, stressed, reiterated, tweeted, rejoiced, etc.

Instead of saying “Saw” try any one of the following words: glanced at, spotted, examined, stared at, watched, gawked, observed, noticed, eyed, sighted, spied, gazed at, or ogle, squinted, etc.

3.) Also, I am going to provide you with a few alternative adjectives when describing your characters’ voices, rather than using overused words to describe voices such as: breathy, high-pitched, happy/bright, angry, deep, thin, and loud.

Breathy ~ smoky.
(These words represent a voice that can be sultry or well….breathy).

High-pitched ~ shrill, grating, piercing.
(These words represent a voice that is so high it’s uncomfortable for listeners).

Happy/Bright ~ fruity, silvery, light, pleasant, appealing.
(These words represent a voice that is pleasant to listen to, one of my favorites on this list is silvery which specifically means a voice that is clear, light, and particularly pleasant 😉).

Angry ~ taut, flat, dead, tight
(These words represent a voice that is restrained in some way out of anger).

Deep ~ low, gruff, gravelly, guttural, raucous, husky
(These words represent a voice noticeably deep).

Thin ~ brittle, guttural, thick, tight, wobbly, tremulous.
(These words usually represent someone who is having a hard time containing the emotion in their tone of voice).

Loud ~ Ringing, Orotund, Trident, Raucous, Penetrating
(((These words represent a voice that so loud it is uncomfortable and alerting. Kind in mind a loud voice is not necessarily a high-pitch voice. Mkay?)))

 

4.) Lastly, that darn word “just”. If you think about it just is just not that great of a word. Just, just can’t say that much really. Honestly, it just falls flat and it’s just a little sad when you see writers fall back on such a weak word like just.

There are  a few times the word “just” is actually necessary. Like when you have a character that intends on minimizing something another character is overreacting about. Imagine the conversation….

Bailey exclaimed, “I cannot believe you belittled me in front your mother!”
“I was just suggesting that she can help you learn how to cook. I was not trying to belittle anyone about anything,” Victor replied.

See? In the scenario I created, Bailey is upset because her husband suggested to his mother that she could teach his wife how to cook. His wife now feels belittled, because she did not want her husband to highlight her flaws to his mother…of all people. Victor in turn tries to calm the situation by using the word “just” to explain his intentions for asking his mother to help Bailey learn how to cook.

Another acceptable time to use the word “just” would be when you have a character that is speaking in plain English, and is explained that something “just happened!”

Other than literary situations similar to the two  I presented above, the word “just” is often used as a crutch when a better word (i.e. an adverb) should be used in its place. Let me offer some examples that you can add to your writing and hopefully eliminate the word “just” from many paragraphs and pages of your stories and books.

Instead of using the word “just” try one of the following words: simply, completely, plainly, solely, barely, hardly, lately, unmistakably, recently, presently, entirely, exactly, perfectly, accurately, precisely, only, somewhat, almost, nearly, etc. All the Best Writers,
By The Novel Gent

 

About the author

The Novel Gent

I am Grant aka The Novel Gent ~ Graduate with Bachelor of Arts Degree in Biblical Counseling with a Major in Theology and a minor in Psychology, CEO of The Writer’s Block, a Proofreader/Freelance Editor, Avid Reader, and Net Galley, Bookish First, and Tyndale Publishing Book Reviewer. I often enjoy losing myself in a good fiction piece…usually a mystery, thriller, or something dystopian. I read, write, edit, sketch, cook, listen to music of many genres, and am working on my debut novel.

With my company, The Writer's Block, I offer my services as an editor hoping to give writers encouragement that there are quality services available to them that will give them what they need and will not break their bank! I am also hopeful to use my growing platform in the “Writer’s Life” and Author’s Community to provide writers with resources about how-to get to their Next Level, and also exposure via my frequent Book Reviews!

Leave a Comment