Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Sometimes, it's easy while writing to use the first word that floats to mind instead of a stronger, more descriptive word. That's not to say your writing should contain a thesaurus full of alternatives.
"She came into the room."
"She went into the room."
"She walked into the room."
"She entered the room."
"She bolted into the room."
"She dashed from the room."
"She limped into the rom."
"She stopped in the doorway and glanced around for a moment before stepping through."
None of those options are unacceptable. In some instances, depending on the mood you're trying to set, you might want one of the "plainer" options.
But which of those options paints the clearest mental image? The first two, came and went, are boring, flat, and weak. The second two, walked and entered, are okay. Bolted, dashed, and limped give us strong, clear mental images with an economy of words.
The last option, however, you can see that one, can't you? You might have even formed a quick mental picture of who "she" is and what the room looks like.
Everyone focuses so much on trying to eliminate passive writing that they forget sometimes weak writing is just as deadly to your prose. When you can, look at your writing and see where, in addition to "was/were/wasn't/weren't" you might use other "weak" words and word combos. We all have them, and as a writer, as you grow in your craft, your list of "weak" words will likely change and evolve.
Use find/replace to locate and highlight them so you can spot them. As with was/were, you might find it is the best choice in some cases. But in others, you'll see where you can spiff up your writing just by making a quick change in wording and it won't unnecessarily bulk up your word count, either.