Friday, August 5, 2011

Fine-tuning: concrete examples

When the overall arc of a story is satisfying, and the characters and the setting all seem to belong, then the writer often turns to fine-tuning. Here are some examples of the fine-tuning I do:

made a crackling noise
crackled

made a whooshing sound
whooshed

gave a smile
smiled

I heard her fingernails clicking against the tabletop
her fingernails clicked against the tabletop

I wondered if he liked me
Did he like me?

These are examples of pruning out filter words, bringing us one step closer to the action. Sometimes I leave in filter words because the narrator is using distance as a defense mechanism, and that's part of my intended characterization process. But many other times, I prefer immediacy and directness. Once I had some good editors point out these weak phrases, they started jumping off the page and waving their little serif hands at me.

5 comments:

  1. This is exactly the kind of fine-tuning I do, too. I let myself write this kind of stuff in first drafts because hey, let's face it, when you're trying to pound out a first draft it's nice to have a word count cushion. But in editing, all this must go.

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  2. Becca: It may be part of the throat-clearing of a first draft; I also find it easier to do later on.

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  3. Same here--when it's the first draft, I'll leave phrases like that the way they are, but the weaker phrases are definitely removed during edits.

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  4. I've thankfully gotten much better at spotting these as a write. They often still make it into the first draft, but they're much easier to catch now.

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  5. Eagle and Mieke: Of course, then there are the elves who plant weak phrases into our brilliant prose when we're not looking ... ;-D

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