Friday, October 12, 2012

What's in a Word? -- All the Right Moves

"If you use the word 'move' one more time, it'd better involve a van and a new apartment." Those words of wisdom  that threat came from a dear, sweat beta, who I trust with my life and my literary children. And you know what? She was absolutely right, though it took me far too long to get the message. And that message involves the dreaded words no author wants to hear: "You're telling, not showing."

The main problem with the word "move" is that sometimes, not only is it lazy, it's a thief, stealing sensory perception from the reading audience. I'll give an example:

Steve stood, awestruck by the way Andy moved on the dance floor. 

There's nothing wrong with that sentence, is there? Look again. Steve is getting a visual that really impresses him, but as a writer, I'm saying, "Look at that!" then slapping a hand over your eyes.

How about:

Steve stood stock still, mesmerized by Andy's gyrations, how he kept in perfect tempo no matter how intricately he wove around his partner. 

While that may be a bit of an over-the-top example, I hope it provides the general idea. As a reader, I want to see to see, hear, taste, feel, touch everything that Steve, the protagonist, does.

Another example I see a lot of, and yes, do myself, is:

Steve watched the way Andy moved through the room.

This leaves me to wonder how Andy did move across the room. Did he saunter or swagger, painting the image of confidence, or did he meander, working the room and stopping to speak here and there, leading me to believe he's social? Did Andy creep through the room to avoid notice?

Sometimes, as with other words I've featured on What's in a Word "move" is the only term that fits. But, as my beta pointed out, it usually involves a group of good ole boys in pickup trucks, as moving normally happens in my neck of the woods.


  1. This little blog and you have helped make me a better writer. Until you called my attention to it I had no idea how I was under utilizing my words. Thank you for taking the time to share you words of wisdom with all of us. Big Hugs, Z.

  2. I never knew until someone pointed these things out to me, or I noticed them in someone else's work. And I'm by no means an expert, I simply point out things that catch my eye and make me go, "Hmmmm..."