Friday, March 9, 2012

Do you have word tics?


Most likely.

Even the great people of the world do.

So, what are these mystical "Word Tics"? They're quite elusive and strangely addicting. You use them mindlessly, and although you don't even notice them, oftentimes they gut your narrative with repetition.

When I finished one of my previous manuscripts, my victory swag took over. I know no first draft is perfect, but hot dang, I felt pretty darn close to it. Then, I took a trip to this fantastic free word cloud generator called Wordle, dumped all 100k into the generator, and then promptly received five smacks in the face.

This is what it looked like.



I did that? No way. There was no way. I couldn't remember a single time I'd used the word "back", or "around". Yes, "eyes" was an obvious one, because eyes are a primary tool for emotion and reactions, and...


And then I took a closer look.

I started with the first chapter, did the awesome action "ctrl + f " on the word "around", and promptly received five more smacks in the face. Actually, it was probably about ten smacks, with finding the word "around" at least once per page. AT LEAST.

It is word dependency, essentially. I'd grown so dependent on these words that I couldn't think outside using them. So, I embarked on a long journey of training and discipline: I went through the entire manuscript for each of the above words, and I decided, one by one, whether or not I absolutely NEEDED the word, or if I could change it -- and make the sentence BETTER.

Many times I could omit the word entirely:

"I turned around."

Which became simply:

"I turned."

I love brevity. Anyone who knows me knows I cuddle and whisper sweet nothings with brevity. I discovered that I liked "I turned" in all its two-word sentence power.

A different example:

"I looked around."

This became:

"I observed the area."

Variation in your narrative is important. It keeps things fresh, challenges you to use different words and different ways to write the same things. It challenges you to get CREATIVE, which you'd better be doing while you're writing. And if you can't think of anything, then mark it, leave it, come back later with a fresh brain. An epiphany might strike you during one of your thinking activities, like sitting on the porcelain throne.

Once I finished this extensive training, flat dead on the floor, an amorphous mass, my word cloud then looked like this:

Ta-daaaah~ There's a lovely sense of balance here. On top of that, I had beaten those words into my brain so thoroughly that, now, I've improved my awareness of them. As I write, I can sense their approach and ward them off entirely with a drop-kick to the face.

There are, of course, downfalls. Whenever politicians speak, my eyebrow twitches at words like "contingency" and "precedent". I rage whenever I see the phrase "critics cry foul" in news articles, and now that I've put it in your mind, I bet you will too. Or maybe it's just my OCD kicking in, or my awkward penguin.

Now, go forth and multiply.

.....Your word count, of course. Population crisis and all that.

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