As a writer, I am always in training. Like any vocation, it can be mastered to some degree if the individual cares enough about it. One thing I have noticed along the way, is that I have used certain phrases and words which do not serve the story in quality, plot or character development, or even in achieving clean, sharp examples of good craft.
Most of these examples refer to rough drafts, as I have been writing for 25 years, and cannot be excused for doing this in a final version, but still, it comes up in the editing process and can be applied to any writer who tackles the job of conscientious revision.
One such phrase I have had to be careful to revise, is “She knew.” (Since most of my characters are female). For example, I might write “She knew it was going to be a long day.” The cleaner way of making this point would be to write, “It was going to be a long day.” This distinction reveals itself in my dislike for simile and preference for metaphor.
“The day had felt like a time warp.”
”The day was a time warp.”
But then, I would have to clarify whether it was a faster or slower time warp. In any case, metaphor has more muscle than simile.
Another phrase I have to be careful of using is “I began” or “She began”–
she began to move toward the door…..
My partner, author Kate Genet, says of this phrase, “I never began to do anything in my life. I’m either doing it or not doing it.” It does result in a sensation of author-fudging. We should commit to what we’re trying to say, rather than dance around it.
Same goes for instances of “She felt.” Kate reads something like, “She felt the emotion of fear welling up inside her” and her face pinches up and she complains, why not just say “She was afraid”? Better yet, she suggests (and rightly so) how about the old caveat of showing and not telling? Indicate the emotion by some physical reaction. An example from her book Orange Moon would be
“Goosebumps spread over my skin despite the sun.”
The reader, Kate points out, would recognize the situation as one that causes fear, and “how does your body react when you’re fearful? Goosebumps, legs weak, dizzy, etc.” She adds, “You don’t need to overdo that, because the reader will understand” what the proper reaction would be.