Write the Hard Stuff: Part 1
It sounds like a lot of work, right? It is, and in the end it’s worth it! But let me begin by explaining what “writing the hard stuff” means: It’s that which adds depth to your story and gets people engaged.
Avoiding the cliché phrases, expressions and descriptions.
The “what is said, but not said”; reading between the lines. The “show” us, don’t “tell” us.
In this Part 1, let’s talk about “Writing Fresh.”
What does it mean to write fresh? It means avoiding clichés. The overused facial expressions, gestures, and descriptions we are all so familiar with. The nod, eyes narrowing, glare, sigh, smile, frown, he felt happy, she was sad, etc…
Why should you try to avoid these, when so many other authors are using them? Because (as Margie Lawson’s post on Writers in the Storm Blog discusses) we have become so used to these cliché phrases that our eyes and mind easily skim over them.
“Clichés are invitations to skim read.”
Do you want your reader skim reading? I’m assuming the answer is “No.” After all, it may lead to them skim reading through much of the story, and fast lose interest. They might awake from the story’s world and begin thinking of their own real world. Defeating the purpose of a story—the purpose to take us some place other than here.
What effect does avoiding clichés have on the reader?
It keeps them from getting bored. It engages; it gets them involved in the story. You want to involve the reader by keeping them thinking and imagining. You make them work a little—however, there’s no need to go overboard, either; balance it. Let me give you an example. Here is a cliché phrase:
Okay, yeah, we know what a smile is; it doesn’t take any work at all to picture or imagine. But because it doesn’t take any work or thought for the reader, this “smile” is just a “smile.” Nothing more. I skim over it. My mind wanders away from the story and this character who is smiling. However,
“The edges of his lips turned up.”
Ooh. That’s different. As a reader, I’m actually taking the time to picture that in my head, and it’s entertaining. It’s keeping me guessing a bit, too. I want to read on. I want to know more! See what just happened in the reader’s mind?
“His eyes narrowed.”
“His eyelids lowered into suspicious slits.”
The reader is seeing and imagining; their mind is working to picture and feel that imagery.
Now, I am NOT saying you should never use clichés. Many of the pros use them, and I myself do too. But it’s important not to constantly use them.
If I keep writing “he smiled”, “she smiled”, “they both smiled”, after a while the readers are going to groan and their minds will wander elsewhere away from the book, bored.
It’s good to change things up as much as possible. Whenever you can “write it fresh,” go ahead! Go for it! And when you can’t, that’s fine. This is a balancing act: Use too many clichés and readers get bored, but use too much fresh writing and it might slow the story’s pace. Writing fresh is mastered with time and patience, and the balance between fresh and cliché is learned with practice. It helps to read books published by authors who practice these in their writing—to give you more of a feel for it.
Crafting imagery through words and making what we write interesting for readers is something that we authors and writers continue to work on and develop throughout our writing career. Be encouraged, and don’t feel overwhelmed. The more you practice, the easier it’ll become to write fresh, and the stronger your writing will be!
~Happy writing, friends