Thursday, October 4, 2012

What's in a Word--Hey, Good "Looking"

After two solid weeks of ranting, I've finally moved on from my bias against the word "walked." Now I'm moving on to "looked."

To me, "looked" is another lazy word that doesn't do much for a story. I'm leaving Lucky alone this time to use Seth and Dustin from my upcoming novel "Naked Tails" for examples.

Seth has returned to town after a long absence to a family legacy he's not equipped to handle. He's also returning to his former best friend, Dusty, only both of them are all grown up now.

Here's today's lazy word in a sentence: Seth looked at Dustin. All this tells me is that Seth has focused his eyes on Dustin, nothing else. But, if "Seth gazed slyly at Dustin" you get a whole different picture, right? Could this be an amorous moment between our two heroes?

Maybe it should be, "Seth glared at Dustin" or even "glowered" or "scowled"? Oh my, not a good moment. As with "walked," changing one word adds interest to the story, avoids repetition of an oft overused term, and shows us somthing. Seth is glaring, glowering, or scowling, so he's not happy, and possibly even angry.

How about, "Seth gawked at Dustin" or "goggled." Oops, did Dustin just inform Seth that he's going to get furry at the next full moon?

Then there's "regarded", "scrutinized", "studied", and "observed". Is Seth watching for a reaction from Dustin?

Most word processing programs that I've used have a built in thesaurus. Highlight the word in question, right click the mouse, and choose "synonym." Click on your choice and voila! It couldn't be easier. Bear in mind, however, that sometimes "look" is the only word that fits.

Have fun with words, but make them work for the priviledge of being in your story. Think you've used the word sparingly? Do a search, and "find all". You might be surprised how many there are, and how much stronger a story can be by just a few one-word changes.


  1. The things I rant about are things I've seen in my own work, and now try to keep from happening. I bet I drive editors crazy! But I'm learning!

  2. Avoiding these 'lazy' words truly make a work so much stronger. I look (opps) I gaze with disgust at my past work and wish I avoided these words sooner. It's a struggle but worth it!!!
    Big hugs for pointing this out to us! Z.

  3. I'm just sharing what I've learned. Personally, I glower at some of my past work, counting the days until contract renewal when I can fix a few things that reeeeeaaaaaaaalllllllly need fixing.