1. Kaci says:

    You’re going to make me do a word search on my own manuscript, aren’t you? 😛

  2. Stuart says:

    Jeff oh so kindly pointed out that I had characters “lurching” all over the place in my original manuscript of Starfire, especially when they stood up.

    I also seem to have a facination with words beginning with the letter S when creating Saurian words. Not that I’m biased toward that letter….

    • Kaci says:

      I have a tendency to get stuck on a phrase I’ll suddenly develop a fascination with. 0=) And variations of the names Nathaniel and Daniel, for no apparent reason.

      For the most part, I won’t notice the adjectives/adverbs too much. I will, however, notice overused exclamation points. After awhile it feels like reading about a pack of hyper cheerleaders. 0=)

      • I once read that every time you use an exclamation point, you should think “Boing!” It definitely helps cut down on overuse.

        Along with overused words (and tics like standing or sitting) are characters who are always being described in the same way or as doing the same things. It’s a very good way to make a character flat. And irritating.

  3. There’s a bigger problem than word overuse with the adverb “slightly.” While all such adverbs should be questioned, using takes the narrative and hijacks it into passive voice. Now, before an apologist comments, passive voice can be used for effect if done intentionally, for effect. Doing so out of ignorance or laziness is cheap and spoils otherwise engaging writing. Trust me: there is nothing worse than reading a harrowing action sequence, like a massive space fight, march against the demon horde, or even domestic feud between characters, only for passive voice to rear its ugly head and sap the energy out of the scene. Trees should not “seem” to lean, an army should not move forward “slightly.” As Yoda wisely advised, “do or do not.”

    As with all advise, though, don’t use Word’s find and replace until after you’ve written the scene. Trying to correct this kind of thing in the middle of writing will stall the creative juices to much (at least that’s what I’ve found.) Remember, writing is a process: rewriting and editing being part of that process.

  4. Christian says:

    Some good stuff here, Stephen. I love the HP books too but Rowling does overdo the adjectives and adverbs. Also, Order of the Phoenix is an interesting addition to the series but I found the first 200 pages to be mostly unnecessary. Did you feel the same way, as a writer? Finally, I’ve discovered that the HP books hold up a lot better when you read them to yourself. Reading outloud makes the overuse of adjectives and adverbs, very obvious.

    • Kaci says:

      Hey, answer me this while we’re on the subject: Was Half-Blood Prince as…Hogwarts High School Musical as the movie? I haven’t read the books, and I felt like I was completely missing something.

      • Christian says:

        Haha! Kaci, you crack me up. The Half-Blood Prince novel is largely about Voldemort’s past, snogging and finding Horcruxes. In the movie, there wasn’t quite as much of an emphasis on Voldemort’s past. The book has more context, the movie shafts some explanations to make way for more snogging. The novel can be seen as a character-study of Harry, his friends and Voldemort, because it’s pretty thin on story. And no, there’s no teen singing. Is that what you were asking?

        • Kaci says:

          Yeah. Maybe it’s because even when I was a teen, I would have been a bit annoyed by the excess…snogging. I just has this constant feeling that I was watching something meant for people who’ve read the book. The entire Severus plot felt a bit shortchanged to me.

          • Christian says:

            Sorry Kaci, yes, the entire Severus plot was truncated in comparison to the book, which clears it up better. As for the snogging, yes, it’s not teaching kids the best practices, but I think Rowling wrote it as an exaggeration of the hormonal party young teens go through. I don’t condone casual snogging but I can’t deny that in the context of the book, it wasn’t hilarious.

          • Kaci says:

            I knew Severus had to have gotten shortchanged. I wanted a lot more out of it.

            The snogging was just…goofy. Out of place.

          • Methinks you ought to read the book (which I just finished re-reading) and that may help clarify the seemingly excess snogging and what happened with Prof. Snape. Having read the series before seeing the film adaptations, I can’t see how a non-book-reader would have viewed the films! So you probably were watching something meant mostly for book-readers — which is better than, say, certain other fantasy-book adaptations that make far too many changes. …

  5. Esther says:

    Reading this series makes me sheepishly realize how useless my reading/commenting on your novel truly was, Stephen. I know bad writing when I read it, (not that yours was!) but I cannot tell you why it is bad. I see that there are terms and explanations for the “badness” beyond what I knew.

    So…I guess this is sorry. Slightly. ;P

    • Ha ha, apology not accepted. 😛 Seriously, some things I read to find and eliminate — including some of the issues outlined in this series — and some things I hope others will find that I may not have caught. For example, a character and his/her motivations may be incredibly vivid in my own imagination, yet the novel may not reveal that as well …

      I so appreciate your proofreading, with or without exact diagnoses of the problems. (After all, one can know a car isn’t working and not know exactly why!) So if you shall apologize publicly or a non-offense, I shall just as readily offer non-forgiveness. 🙂

  6. I’m going to comment then go back and read what others have said, so pardon me if I’m repeating someone else’s points or am interrupting an ongoing discussion.

    I think the problems you mention, Stephen, can be taken care of if we writers know our characters better. Often things like standing up and sitting down with no reason is because we don’t know what this particular character would do in this particular situation. Same thing with repeated words. If characters all say “what?” in response to shocking news, then maybe we need to do some work individuating them, giving them more personality, distinct personality that would require them to react to the same news in different ways.

    I guess I’m saying, we need to be aware of the band-aide approach to editing our work, ignore the temptation to settle for cosmetic surgery, and go all the way to transplanting vital organs if necessary.


  7. kirsty says:

    An author may get quite wrapped up in his or her own created-world, believing that every part of it must be described, even if it doesn’t pertain to the plot.

    Is this necessarily a bad thing? For me as a reader, it’s often the world in speculative fiction that is more important than the plot. For example, Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov is, plotwise, a whodunnit. And that’s a good thing. But if you were to ask me why I’d recommend it, the world he builds is the reason – it’s fascinating. Another example is The Borrowers by Mary Norton. The world, and the detailed descriptions of it, are what I like about it – in fact, I’d as soon the plot wasn’t there, as it gets in the way!

  8. […] of speculative fiction, one of our authors is discussing what a writer can learn from bad books. In Part 3 (see also Part 1 and Part 2), his latest article, he focuses first on authors filling dialogue with […]

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