Thursday, June 12, 2014

C. S. Lewis on Word Choice




I've been judging contests lately. And one thing I've noticed (and this is something I likely do in my own writing as well *slaps wrist*) is that authors tend to exaggerate because it sounds cool. And this is not hyperbole I'm talking about. Here are some examples of what I mean:

Blood gushed from the wound. 
If you've ever seen something gush, I bet this isn't what you really meant. Blood doesn't tend to gush. If it did, your character would bleed out in a minute because the average human has about a gallon-and-a-half of blood in his body. Fill a milk jug and time how long it takes you to pour it out.

Pain wracked every nerve.
Did it really? Where was this wound that wracked every nerve? It might have felt like it did. But until you experience childbirth, you likely don't understand true, body-encompassing pain. So if you plan to have your character experience greater pain later on in your story, maybe down play this one.

His heart hammered in his chest.
I'm not saying it didn't, but often a character's heart will hammer in his chest ten times in one book. Can you find a way to show fear differently?

Tears poured down her face.
Hmm... Pull our your gallon of water again and pour yourself a glass. Now be honest. Is that really what the tears did?

I know, I know, I'm being picky with these examples. But that's why I like this quote so much. We are authors, and words matter. Every single one.

Have you been guilty of over-exaggerating in your fiction? If so, as you edit, look for those places and take care to choose a different word, one that will communicate exactly what you need it to.

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This is the last time I'll blog until after the GTW vacation. I will miss you. I hope you all have a lovely two weeks. I hope to see some of you at the One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop in Kansas. I'll be the one in Converse.


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25 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for this post, Jill!! I tend to over use all of these (except for the blood gushing on)!! =P

    Wish I was going!! Gonna miss ya'll! =)

    TW Wright
    ravensandwriting.blogspot.com

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  2. I am guilty of exaggerating sometimes when it comes to emotion, and tears, and whatnot. Can't wait to see you at OYAN. I'll have to check everyone's shoes to find you. You won't be wearing a Sir Gavin orange Hoodie? I applied for a mentorship session with you, but nothing has come through yet.

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    1. Then I'm sure I'll see you, Michaella. Yay! I love conferences. :-)

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  3. I tend to get caught up in the moment and often exaggerate. It's something I'm working on.
    Thank you for all of your advice on writing and editing, it helps me a lot.

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    1. You are very welcome. I over-exaggerate too. I try to catch it in the rewrite.

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  4. Yay! Excellent post -- thank you infinitely...oops, I mean, very...much. ;)

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  5. I am for sure guilty of the tears pouring...maybe just maybe in needs to be a little less ;)

    Enjoy the GTW holiday and conference you are attending!

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  6. I don't think I've done any of these, but I'll have to watch out for these, I'll miss you, Mrs. Williamson!! Have fun!

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  7. Oooooh...see what you mean there. Whoops. Never even thought about that. Definitely something to look out for, or a few observant readers might notice and start getting a little annoyed, and we don't want that! ;)

    Two weeks?! Where did I miss this? Sniff, sniff...have fun, though!

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  8. Great post! I shall definitely keep this in mind when I go back to edit the rough draft of the novel I just finished!

    And I'll see you at the OYAN conference in Kansas! :D Can't wait to hear what you have to say this year! :)

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Congrats on finishing your first draft!

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  9. Wow that gives me something to think about!! Where and when is the workshop in Kansas? And how can I sign up? :)

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    1. Jacinta, you have to be a One Year Adventure Novel student to register, but here is the link if you're curious. http://oneyearnovel.com/workshop.html

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  10. I wish I was going! Maybe someday. :)
    I'll have to keep an eye open for those exaggerations... I know I purposefully exaggerate to help give the main chacacter voice, but other than that I don't know. Usually for tears I say, "rolled down her cheeks" "dripped from her eyes" or something. I'll have to look out for that though. Thanks for the post! :)

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  11. I think i used "Tears poured down her face" once, and it fit the situation perfectly. The FMC, Amity, was talking with my MMC, Roan about a character who had just gotten killed. Amity was the one woth pouring tears, because she was supposed to have been killed. The girl who had just died, Anabeth, had taken her place.

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  12. Wish I'd be seeing you at OYAN, and I'll miss you here on the blog. Give Hannah Mills and Rachel Garner hugs for me if you see them!

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    1. I'll miss you too, Leah. Hugs for everyone!

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  13. I don't know if I've used any of these. Probably will sometime. :)

    Where did I miss the news about the GTW vacation? Have a great time!
    Wish I was going too.... :)

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    1. Oh, and a brilliant quote. So true!

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    2. Actually, this was the first mention of it. I meant to on Monday and totally dropped the ball! But, yes, we're taking the next two weeks off.

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  14. I love this! I was especially guilty of it when I first started out. I always heard about using strong verbs so I dramatized everything. Baaad. It makes the characters seem overly…whiny. Not to mention, many of these phrases seem to be cliched. When I find myself falling into old habits, I take a look at my dusty manuscripts and tell myself, "See. This is why you need to be innovative with your writing."

    Great post! I'm so glad I found your site!

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