Friday, May 17, 2013

What's in a Word? It's All About the Feel

It's been too long since I posted in my What's in a Word series. Today let's talk about feelings.

Now, I'm no editor--yet, and definitely not an expert, but I do know what I like to read and words that bring my reading to a screeching halt. While my own work is probably rife with such examples of words that I don't care for, I'm actively working to overcome them. Today's word is "feel", or any of it's derivatives.

Sometimes, as with any word, it's the best choice, but many times, it bogs the writing down or adds distance between the character and the reader.

Example: Billy felt cold.

Yeah, he's cold. Now let's move on to next sentence.

How to maximize on what Billy is experiencing: Brrr! Billy's breath fogged before his face. A shiver raced up his spine. Why had he left the house without his jacket when the weatherman predicted snow?

In the second example, I don't have to tell you Bill feels cold. Fogging breath, shivers, "Brrr" and a snow prediction does that for me.

Here's another example: Kyle felt out of place.

More interesting: Students huddled in groups of two or three, assessing gazes following Kyle's passage down the hallway. Their pleated and pressed Valkenburg Academy uniforms set them apart from Kyle, with his worn jeans and faded T-shirt, their designer backpacks a startling contrast to his frayed and oft-mended Army surplus duffle.No one spoke except to snicker and whisper behind his back. Why the hell had Mom decided to take him out of public school?

While a somewhat more wordy alternative, I don't have to tell you of Kyle's discomfort, do I?

The words feel, felt, feeling etc., may indicate a bit of telling versus showing, one of the reasons most autocritter programs flag it for excessive use.

If you're a reader, does the word "felt" make you wish the author had shown you the feelings?

Authors, is there a better word (or series of words) than felt?

How about this example: Jim got the feeling something was wrong.
Now let's try: Unease squirmed to life in Jim's belly. What was that sound? Wait! There is was again. He held his breath, listening to the night. Cold chills raced up his arms.

Do you get a better sense of connection to Jim in the first example or the second?

Food for thought, and one author's (and reader's) humble opinion.

Tune in next time when we'll be doing a little thinking.

4 comments:

  1. I always thought "move" was the dullest verb, except when shifting your household, butnow I think feel is. Must go on a search and destroy mission in the WIP! -- Pam, who isn't being allowed to comment by blogger grr

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  2. Feel, move, walk, thought(the next installment), look, they all stand out to me, as those I beta for know. Is it a personal taste issue? Yes. Are sentences stronger when these words are addressed? My own certainly are.

    And hugs on the comment thing.

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  3. A wise words for any author & it makes a huge difference. I will be pulling Made in China back to auto critter it & ensure I give the deeper POV.
    Hugs, Z.

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  4. Sometimes it's difficult to capture deep POV, but so, so worth it.

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