Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What's in a Word: Little Miss "It"

Today's word is one that is so easy to overuse and yes, I'm guilty myself.

Here's an example, taken from one of my earlier manuscripts, The Pirate's Gamble:

Once again he thanked whatever power had thrust it into his possession as he wrapped his hands around it to shield the glow he knew to expect, visualizing his destination clearly in his mind. 

If you were reading this passage in the story, you'd know that "it" is an artifact that pirate/archaeologist Ian found on dig, that allows him to travel in time. Still, I could definitely spice up these words with a few little changes:

Once again he thanked whatever power had thrust the artifact into his possession as he wrapped his hands around the stone to shield the glow he knew to expect, keeping his destination clearly in mind. 

Now it doesn't matter that you put your book down for a few hours--you still know what "it" is. I've also been touting deep POV lately, though, so let's take this one step further and see if I can create a greater connection between Ian and readers:

"Whoever left this for me to find," he raised the stone aloft, "I give you my thanks." Ian wrapped his hands around the amulet to shield the anticipated glow. He closed his eyes, picturing a white house with black shutters, frothy curtains dancing in the breeze, and David, his sweet David, waiting by the door. 

Does the third example make you feel more a part of story? It also provides a bit of back story. There's a place that Ian loves, and a man he loves. He wants to go there. 

Here's another example in which I've used "it" four times in one sentence:

After working the moisture from it as best he could with the towel, he combed it again so that it fell in soft, auburn waves down his back as it dried. 

I'm speaking of his hair, but how boring would "hair" four times be? Let's try:

After working the moisture from his auburn waves as best he could with the towel, he applied a comb until the the damp strands fell in soft waves down his back. 

"As it dried" isn't really necessary, and now we have a more concise sentence without you, the reader, having to slow down to figure out what "it" is. 

As with all the other words I've written about, sometimes "it" is the best choice. Other times, however, "it" acts as a speed bump, slowing the action when the reader must pause to work out the references. 

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