Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What's wrong with suddenly? and other forbidden and hated words

I wish I could remember where I read this the other day, but some web writing authority suggested that there is no good use for the word suddenly in fiction. Yes, yes, I can see the point, show and don't tell, but gosh, suddenly is a kind of go-to word for me. I can't imagine a world without suddenlies!
A writing mentor of sorts of mine, who has steered me right in oh so many things, does not like the word seems in non-dialogue descriptions for the same reason. (Example: The man seems angry.) This is another show don't tell issue. Better to tell the reader that the man is frowning, or frothing at the mouth and clawing at somebody's face.

I try to do this, but every once in a while I really want to use a seems construction. It is like my lazy forbidden fruit. Yummy!

The word select as a verb used to irritate the hell out of me. Why not pick or choose? I felt that, as a verb, select sort of puts on airs. Please select a color. But I don't hate that word anymore because sometimes you want a verb to put on airs. However, I do dislike the word dollop. It's just too precise; there's no wiggle room in it. I know that's a bad explanation, and I know it's not fair because there are no other words that mean what dollop means. But there it is.

My husband dislikes the word nosh as a replacement for words like eating or snacking. I am in complete sympathy with him on that. Though in a certain devilish mood I will use it in a conversation with him.

Do other people have words they single out unfairly to dislike? Could any other words possibly be more deserving of it than dollop or nosh?


writtenwyrdd said...

I'm sure I have words that annoy me as dollop and nosh annoy you and your husband. However, I cannot think of them off hand. I think that if the word doesn't fit it will sound stilted, in particular if it is telling instead of showing. But words like suddenly can be used to good effect, too.

It's probably a case that falls under the only rule in writing that's absolutely 100% true: If you write well enough, you can break any so-called "rule."

LesleyW said...

'Literally' is the word that annoys me. Mainly because for the most part it's superfluous, or used incorrectly.

Example - His head literally exploded!

If his head actually exploded then there's no need to use literally. If it didn't explode, then the author means figuratively or metaphorically.

When I'm writing I try to avoid - seems, very, really. Words you can overuse without being aware of it.

Carolyn Jean said...

ww - An excellent point; if you do it well you can break the rules.

Lesleyw, Very true on literally! That is sort of a useless word. Because if his head literally exploded, the writer would have quite a bit of drama to mine by showing that rather than insisting on it, which literally sort of does.

And I personally overuse 'very.' I think I overuse 'so,' too.

Sarai said...

Well crap I'll have to add Suddenly to the list of must change in Cursed. I swear one day this story will be done!
I've overused seriously I think it's simply b/c I say it so often seriously!
Great post

meljean brook said...

I overuse so many words, it's not even funny. Most of them, I know, so I can go back and look specifically for them in the editing process ... but there are a few that still slip by.

RE: the guy on the cover/holiday card. He does look more like Hugh than Drifter, but I'm definitely not complaining :-D

meljean brook said...

"definitely" is one of my words.

lisabea said...

My list of favorite words to overuse are: very, really, so, but, anyway, anywho (is that a word?), garsh, grh (both are not words, but whatever, I use them often) and my personal favorite, awesome. Oh, and cool. And HOT! Holy shit, I suck at writing.

Tumperkin said...

I never thought about it before but when I was reading Cross Stitch/Outlander last night, I came across a "suddenly" and I REALLY noticed it. Kind of did a double take and thought 'Diana? Surely not!' Hmmmm.

I'm with you on select. Sounds like a computer talking.

My list of bad words is huge so I won't inflict it upon you but any use of the word 'shattered' in a sex scene gets a huge black mark from me. So cliched. Oh, and 'chuckle'. Hate when men chuckle. It sounds so smug. Can't they just laugh?

Kara said...

In writing my reviews I have to watch out for "definitely" - I don't know - seems to be a favorite of mine. Never thought about the word "suddenly" but what you said does make sense.

I hate the word "literally" too. Definitely used incorrectly - oops there's that word again LOL.

I don't like the word "chuckle" when used in context of men laughing - just doesn't seem to fit.

Carolyn Jean said...

Hey Kara, if I were you, I wouldn't suddenly stop using suddenly. I don't really agree that it should be stricken from writing. Maybe from overuse.

MJ: I do love the word definitely for its personality. Technically it doesn't add anything, but then again, it does!

Regarding chuckle, oh, I am SO with you guys on that. Really, I don't know if I've ever heard what I would describe as a chuckle from a man or a woman.

LB: I think hot totally belongs in your reviews. Hot conveys something other words just cannot! Don't stop the hotness!

T - I would sure hate for anything to shatter while I was having sex. Though I think you're talking about perceptual/mental shattering..."her mind shattered"... which, yes, please,no!

Brie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brie said...

I dislike "Supposedly"

It stems from my writing and reading of fan fiction. Most of my fellow fic writers love to use that word and not always in the right context. It also annoys me when it is spelled wrong. I've seen it spelled 'suposebly' and 'supposibly' more times than I care to remember.

I have a tendency to overuse the words 'also,' 'anyway,' 'of course' and 'so.'