Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Running out of Words?

Do you ever have those moments when you are editing your work or someone else is and they circle the same word five times on a page or GASP! in the same paragraph?
Have you stared at word and tried to think of another word to use to describe something or some action?

If you answered “no”, I would say you are full of you know what.

Come on, we’ve all been there. For some reason you get used to using a specific word and it feels natural until you revisit the story. Then your eyes grow wide in horror and you groan every time you see the word “run” on the page.

Believe me, if you catch it you will be much happier than if an editor or agent recognizes the fact that you have a fixation for the word “looked”.

So what do you do about it? Besides editing and catching your obsession with the word “pulled”, you then have to come up with a good replacement.

There are various tools available to you to help with such things such as the dictionary or thesaurus. I am attached to because it also has an online thesaurus.

When I first started writing I bought the book “The Romance Writers’ Phrase Book” by Jean Kent and Candace Shelton. I have since been given or bought books like “Urban Dictionary” by Aaron Peckham creator of, and “American Slang Dictionary” by Richard A. Spear, Ph.D.

Anyway, there are all kinds of online site you can find like the ones I listed above based on a particular subject or language. In my fourth novel, I have a character who is Irish and I had to find out how to say a particular phrase. Voila, the Internet comes to the rescue.

Back to the point. Using the same word repeatedly is tiresome and boring. “Blech!”

In an attempt to offer a little help for the mundane and the word weary, I thought I would post some adverbs that can be used to change up your pace, “show” the reader more of what the character is doing rather than stating “he said” or “she said”.

Feel free to share some of your own adverbs and/or sites that you recommend to help alleviate the routine use of specific words.

Here are some adverbs to try out:

Instead of "walked"
or "ran"

lumbered, plodded, scurried, sidled, slinked/slunk, proceeded, wended, scuttled, shuffled, scuffed, scuffled, stumbled, shambled, waddled, wobbled, scooted, slouched, scrambled, scampered, minced, trotted, strolled, sauntered, ambled, marched, stepped, paced, roamed, roved, meandered, shadowed, pursued, trekked, continued on, drifted along, strayed, strode, stalked, stomped, strutted, swished, swaggered, stamped

Instead of "touched"
clutched, pawed, gripped, grasped, adjusted, felt, manipulated, maneuvered, twiddled, palpated, palmed, handled, thumbed, caressed, fondled, stroked, grazed, rubbed, tugged, squeezed, scratched, pinched, patted, tapped, tamped, rapped, brushed, dabbed, scraped, glanced, alighted, pressed, wrung, kneaded, shoved, gouged, grazed, prodded, ticked, trapped, jabbed, poked, pressed, probed

Alternative to "pulled"
removed, extracted, produced, tugged, extricated, lugged, drew, dragged, yanked

Substitute for "pushed"
propelled, set in motion, drove, trundled, shoved, thrust, pressed forward, squeezed through, roused, prompted, forged ahead

For "looked, saw"
glared, glanced off, regarded, made out, had in sight, glowered, squinted, shot him a look, fixed her with a stare, sighted, ogled, cast a glance, his eyes begged her, gazed, gaped, spotted, surveyed, turned an eye on, looked upon, distinguished, fixed her gaze on

In place of "turned"
wheeled around, whirled about, rotated, spun on her heels, pivoted, revolved, swiveled, circled, swirled, sheered, veered, shifted, angled off

For the dreaded "said"
uttered, mumbled, parroted, echoed, said half-aloud, snarled, blurted, moaned, muttered, murmured, cooed, whispered, crooned, hollered, shrilled, sassed, prompted, questioned, demanded, queried, replied, suggested, responded, sang out, scoffed, screamed, yelled, yelped, shouted, inquired, chirped, squealed, squeaked, asked herself, asked, assured, commanded, cried out, exclaimed, advised, announced, growled, stuttered, stammered, instructed, told, jeered, scolded, mocked, objected, questioned, roared, speculated, snapped, spat, stated, whined, jabbered, prattled, cackled, gabbled, sputtered, blathered, rambled on, ranted, gushed, spouted, let slip, pointed out, chatted, revealed, boasted, crowed


Michelle Magill September 23, 2009 at 8:55 AM  

HA! me too.. always have open when even writing reviews. Can be problematic if I need a word that is very Australian or has an Australian spelling but so many Australian dictionaries want you to subscribe.

Do I lose points for saying Australian 3 times in ONE sentence?!

Denise September 24, 2009 at 9:25 AM  

Michelle - hehe. funny - using Australian 3 times. is so great!

It happened to me just last night when I met my fellow writers. One paragraph had the word "breath" in it 4 times. Eeek!

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