Carver’s Cuts: Part Two

Here we are again, with some of those pesky critters found while going through an intensive editing process. Keep an eye out! These words can potentially weaken your writing.

As always, if you’d like to add some words or discuss the ones I’ve listed, please leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

Feel / Felt / Could feel, etc:

I know I’m a perpetrator, but I actually see a lot of other writers doing this as well. Once I noticed it this became a definite Pet Peeve (I have kennels full of peeves, honest). For me, the issue is that you don’t need to say that your character felt something, not unless your character usually doesn’t feel things, or the fact that they are feeling it is unusual or noteworthy in some way. For example:

No: “Tara felt a cold wind, making her shiver.”

Yes: “A cold wind made Tara shiver.”

Yes: “Although everything seemed perfectly still around her, Tara felt a cold wind, making her shiver.”

I suppose it’s a question of passivity … If you’re describing something as an experience, you could throw in as many “feels” and “felts” as you’d like. But I’m beginning to join the school of thought that every action has a perpetrator, and actions will be more immediate and engaging if described from the “point of view” (sort of) of that perpetrator.

Other senses:

“Feel” and “felt” were the big ones for me, but what I said above goes for the other senses as well. You don’t need to say that your character saw or heard something, you can just describe the sight or the noise. The fact that you’re describing it is a strong indicator that your character observed it. Exceptions to this would be when the sensation is unusual in some way, or if the narrator is third person omniscient and you need to specify what your character can and cannot observe.

Started / Began:

Unless the fact that they started to do something is extremely important, I do not recommend using these words. They take up space. For example, is there a difference between these two sentences:

Example A: “Tara started walking to school. Upon arrival, she grimaced at the sight of so many brand name jeans.”

Example B: “Tara walked to school. Upon arrival, she grimaced at the sight of so many brand name jeans.”

I suspect that I (and maybe we), use “began / started” because we are watching our narratives unfold as we write (I believe that’s called “Seat of the Pants” writing). When our characters begin an action, we don’t know if they’ll be interrupted right in the middle. So watch out!

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One thought on “Carver’s Cuts: Part Two

  1. “You don’t need to say that your character saw or heard something, you can just describe the sight or the noise. The fact that you’re describing it is a strong indicator that your character observed it.” That is the lesson Leona taught me, except it almost always applies to my using “felt.”

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