Okay, so for the record, I only used “sigh” 26 times so that meme is a hyperbole (my fancy word for the day). Anyway, I entered Hooligans in Shining Armour into writing competition called “Pitch Wars”. You submit your query and first chapter to four mentors. Mentors each pick one manuscript and help the writer whip it into shape to submit to an agent round in November.
I’m brushing up my manuscript. One of the things I like to do is search words and phrases to make sure I’m not being too repetitive: sigh, smile, grin, rolled my eyes, pissed up, icy fingers, etc. All writers have words or phrases that they slip into using too frequently. I’m trying to spot mine find more interesting ways to express them. In this MS, a lot of them are related to describing either emotion or drinking (lol, my hooligans drink A LOT). My novel’s written in first person. I’ve been working hard on using body language to show emotion of non-POV characters, rather than labeling the emotion or using sadly. I’m also trying word dialogue to imply tone, and use tone to show emotion.
Here’s the phrase I’m sprucing up now: She pursed her lips and sighed. “If your dad was arrested…” The character is feeling torn. She wants to help Fiona but she legally can’t, and she doesn’t want Fiona to take it into her own hands. It actually doesn’t sound too bad, except I’m watching how often I use the word “sigh”. Also she just pursed her lips and now she’s talking.
Here’s my #1 contender for spruced-up version: She pressed her fingers to her forehead. Her fingernails had been painted nude. “Fiona, if your Dad was arrested…”
That took me at least ten minutes come up with. I’m still mulling over “Her fingernails had been painted nude.” It feels a bit passive to me. Amazing how many tiny things go in to sculpting a novel.
One way I get inspiration for non-verbals is through reading. I write down good ones I find. Obviously, I don’t copy them, but they give me a starting place. I also use the power of the internet and pin good resources so I don’t lose them. Check out my Craft of Writing board!
Have you ever tried searching words in your WIP to check repetition? What word or phrase do you overuse?