Monday, June 08, 2009

Word Tics

Otherwise known as crutch words. All writers have them. With luck, they have eagle eyes and pluck them from their manuscripts before turning them in to their editors. If not, their editor gently points them out (Did you really mean to use the word splendid 117 times in this 50 page manuscript?) so you can remove them in the revision.

The thing is, I never really thought much about word tics, except as how they were slightly embarrassing, like burping in front of your editor. Until this manuscript. And then it hit me square in the forehead that my words tics were my voice touchstones, the equivalent of a verbal collage that I could use to help quickly re-anchor myself in the character’s voice when I felt I was veering too far off into my own voice. They weren’t just lazy verbal smears on the manuscript, but held a very specific, legitimate, purpose.

In Theo, some of the word tics are honestly, wretched, vile, beastly, and lovely. I’m trying to think what tic words showed up in Nathaniel Fludd. Probably the biggest one is then, mostly because I was trying to keep sentences short and simply structured.

But the thing is, Nathaniel Fludd is written in third person, and it turns out when I’m writing in 3rd, I don’t use tic words as much. (Yes, I went back and reviewed my older books just to see if the theory held true.) Turn is another tic word, but that’s mostly for blocking, to help anchor me in the physical movements of what the characters are doing. Not that the reader needs to know every time they turn or pivot, but apparently I do. ☺ Then I try to take them out afterward.

In this medieval French thing I’m working on, my tic words are in truth, naught, milord, and mayhap. For some reason those words feel archaic to me and so help gently bump the voice back into the correct character and time period.

What about you? Do any of you have tic words that you’ve found yourself using a lot? If so, I'd love to hear them!


PJ Hoover said...

You're so right about the first vs. third person thing.
I tend to use "okay" a lot. My editor pointed it out in my most recent feedback. Also I used "probably" and "seriously".

Max said...

I tend to use the word "and" more than I should. Sometimes I start sentences with "and", and other times I use "and" to bridge one or two or more sentences together. I should work on that...

Anonymous said...

I used "horrible" a lot in one story. The worst one I use and globally search for is "try" or "tried" - just do it! And I keep forgetting my google login. But I love your blog Robin!

Aspiring Author said...

I use the words "suddenly" "silently" and "glance" alot!

By the way Robin, I'm having "writer's block" at the moment. I'm hating everything I write and can't figure out where the heck my story is going.

Do you have any suggestions to overcome Block? If so, it'd be wonderful if you'd do a post on it.

Robin L said...

Wow, this is very fun to hear about everyone else's tic words!
I'm laughing at the "just do it already" thing, Angela.

And I don't see anything wrong with starting sentences with "and", unless it's overdone.

And Aspiring Author, today's post touches on just that subject, but I'll be sure to address it even more now that you're asking about it.

Greek Girl said...

When writing a short story for fun I used the words "seriously" and "jeez" a lot. Words like that, which you frequently use, an old teacher of mine once said, "Use a thesaurus, find that antonym!" I think a thesaurus would be fantastic in these situations, don't you?

Robin L said...

Yes, GG, definitely time for a thesaurus!

My personal favorite is one I bought on the $5 table at B&N about twelve years ago. Best thesaurus ever. It was published by Bloomsbury in 1993.