8 Words You Should Avoid When Writing
As always, Orwell’s final rule applies: “Break any of these rules before saying anything barbarous.” There are instances where each of these words fills a valuable role. However, especially among inexperienced writers, these words are frequently molested and almost always gum up the works.
“Sudden” means quickly and without warning, but using the word “suddenly” both slows down the action and warns your reader. Do you know what’s more effective for creating the sense of the sudden? Just saying what happens.I pay attention to every motion, every movement, my eyes locked on them.
Suddenly,The gun goes off.
When using “suddenly,” you communicate through the narrator that the action seemed sudden. By jumping directly into the action, you allow the reader to experience that suddenness first hand. “Suddenly” also suffers from being nondescript, failing to communicate the nature of the action itself; providing no sensory experience or concrete fact to hold on to. Just … suddenly.
Feel free to employ “suddenly” in situations where the suddenness is not apparent in the action itself. For example, in “Suddenly, I don’t hate you anymore,” the “suddenly” substantially changes the way we think about the shift in emotional calibration.
Damnit drill, I just want to sit here and study this!
After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.
Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?
The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.
She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,
Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.
She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.
Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.
Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.
And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.
And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.
They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.
Not everything is lost.
Anonymous asked fuckyourwritinghabits:
I have a good limit I put on my magic system, I know how it works and how it affects to the person using it, but I have a problem - I really have trouble figuring out what it’s capable of and what it looks like, any tips to get out of this little snag?
Hey, Anon! I feel you so hard on this one, believe me. Designing magic systems are equally fun and frustrating. I’m going to run down some of the things I’ve kept in mind while approaching it, hopefully they help!
- Magic has rules. No wandless magic, bringing someone back from the dead has consequences, etc. Mapping the limits of your magic system will help you define it.
- Those rules must fit into your world’s rules. It is perfectly okay to have characters that can break your magic rules, but you must know how and why. The effects of your magic system is going to effect the world of your story as a whole - too many stories have the magic world and the mundane one separated by a wall, when really they should be connected, intertwined in everyday life even when people don’t know magic exits.
- On that note, figure out the little things your magic does. The big things will be fairly obvious and more easy to hammer down. It’s the little details that will bring life to your magic system, that will make it fun for you to write and for people to read. Maybe your magic has a taste or smell, and they differ depending on what spell is being cast. Maybe it effects the mood of people who have no idea it’s happening. Maybe it’s woven into walls, or slipped into certain products.
- Establish those rules in your story. The reader needs to know where the limits are. This can be awkward to try to handle, especially if your magic system is big and complex, and normally I see it handled a few ways; the Harry Potter newbie who learns about it as they go, or the expert who expositions as they perform it, or the third party. These both can be done well or poorly, but they are done because the reader needs to understand what is happening and why.
- Your magic doesn’t have to be unique, but it has to be interesting to you. Your reader is important, but you’re the one who has to care about your work. Don’t force yourself to do things for the sake of interesting someone else. Explore your magic system the way you want to explore it, and your interest will come out to your readers.
Good luck, anon! I hope you have a great time designing your magic system, and when it gets frustrating, don’t feel bad about taking a break from it. You will get what you want and it will be great, I’m certain!
“I like the idea of a Muse so much that I’m not going to tell you that you should throw it out the window. Nope. I say tie her down and make her tell you where she gets her ideas! Remember, you don’t actually have to come up with something out of nothing. Creativity isn’t just generating new ideas, it’s also combining old ones (or parts of old ones) in useful ways.
Here are a few places the Muse might tell you to look for intriguing bits:
- Online news (I’m addicted to Flipboard)
- Song lyrics
- Television shows
- Gossip (yes, you may have just found a reason to listen without too much guilt)
- Any other place you’re hearing about others’ lives, beliefs, hopes, and dreams
Let’s just take the news as an example: does the news have conflict? Check. How about interesting people? Check. (We might even call some of them ‘characters’!) And short blurbs that provide just enough information to tantalize? Check.
Follow the link to read the article by Carolyn Kaufman
I have about sixteen tabs open, and they’re all related to trans-Martian bodies in the Solar System. Kids, when its comes to writing hard science fiction, JUST SAY NO.
Honorably discharged from the Terran Imperial Navy for killing a superior officer rather than follow orders that would have gotten millions of people killed, Sebastian Charlemagne took to the life of a space privateer in her sleek and nimble ship named “Black 21”, eventually turning pirate with the help of her shipboard AI sidekick JACK, a “liberated” cyber-warfare computer. Now, after living for years in the political no-man’s land of the cold war between the Terran Empire and the Jovian Alliance, she has found something on the edge of the ostensibly neutral Asteroid Belt which could change the course of history, and ignite a conflict the likes of which has never been seen before…
I’d rather be watching the Oscars than Tumblr’s half-assed commentary on them. Since I can’t, I think I’ll get drunk and get back to work on my novel.