Tighten Up Your Story: Dealing With Filler

One of the problems with amateur writers is that they tend to overwrite their narratives. Some of the bigger and more obvious examples are involving new characters who are undeveloped and don’t serve much of a purpose, a side arc that is introduced, but never resolved, unnecessary scenes, and purple prose used for mundane scenes. Those are the big problems. The small ones are using words that carry little to no meaning to the overall prose or narration of the story. Certain words can be filler too. In today’s post, we will discuss filler words. Note: this is in regards to the narrative, not dialogue. If your characters speak using the standard sentence structure of 21st Century English, it’s perfectly okay for your character to say, “Next thing I knew, this guy suddenly slaps me in the face!” But I show you how this is boring in the narrative.

Why get rid of filler words when it’s just a word here and there?

Simple. Imagine your reader enjoying one of your action scenes of a pivotal battle between a knight and the renegade king’s guards. You write this:

Suddenly, the knight let out a scream as the guard’s blade struck out, driving deeply. He gritted his teeth as he saw three more men unsheathed steel, joining in the battle. The knight countered and the guard let out a dying scream as the magical sword punched through the man’s armor.

Abruptly, the knight heard the sound of boots thundering down the hall toward him, the battle far from over.

Bad Adverbs of Instant Action

Suddenly, immediately, abruptly, slowly, and quickly are adverbs of instant action. And they are useless. Pathetically, unequivocally useless. In the above example, There is a battle being waged. Of course, everything will move as fast as possible. So the words “suddenly” and “abruptly” are pointless. Get rid of them.

Verb + out = filler

Cry out, let out, screamed out, shouted out, are examples frequently used by amateur writers and even some experienced ones.

“…the knight let out a scream…” Why use this? Why not, “The knight screamed as the guard’s blade struck”

“…the guard let out a dying scream…” Let’s replace with “…the guard howled his death throes as…”

I saw, I heard, I knew, I kicked butt

The words “saw” (and all its variants and synonyms), “heard,” and “knew” are useless words in about 99% of all cases.

“….the knight gritted his teeth as he saw three more men…” Replace with, “…three more men…”

“…the knight heard the sound of boots…” Let’s rewrite it to “The sound of boots thundered down the hall…”

Here are some more examples:

“Jack saw the man draw his gun.” Go with, “The man drew his gun.”

“Margaret heard a moan in the closet.” Go with, “Someone within the closet moaned.”

Let’s clean up our original example, shall we?

The knight screamed as the guard’s blade struck, driving deeply. He gritted his teeth as three more men unsheathed steel, joining in the battle. He countered, the guard howling his death throes as the magical sword punched through the man’s armor.

The sound of boots thundered down the hall toward him, the battle far from over.  

Happy Writing!

How to Kill Passive Voice

One of the biggest mistakes amateur writers make when submitting proposals to Dragon Soul Press (DSP) is Voice. It’s passive. As such, Passive Voice does two things that hurts your story.

First, it tends to have more telling and not enough showing. You may have heard this expression, “Show, do not tell.” If you have Passive Voice, you’re likely telling. Here’s an example.

Wyntiir was angry, her face a virtual snarl.

The first part of this sentence is, “Wyntiir was angry.” You told us she became angry—just like that. Let’s do it again.

A fire erupted within Wyntiir’s chest, her face a virtual snarl.

Now the whole sentence reads of her anger and it’s up to us just how angry she feels, but at this point, we get a stronger picture that Wyntiir is frothing mad. If we added more description, that picture gets stronger, but we don’t want to overdo unless her anger is pivotal in a scene or chapter.

The second thing Passive Voice does is creates a bland story or bland action. A lot of great action scenes could be written if the author simply takes the time to clean up their passive verbs. Here’s an example of a bland scene using Passive Voice:

Wyntiir was angry, her face a virtual snarl.

Becoming bored, Samdel yawned. Wyntiir was like this to him all the time.

“Wolf-biter!” she screamed but turned away. She saw the body again. The man before them was clearly dead, rotting away.

All of this is not good and if you have a ton of scenes written like this, it could throw your reader off or worse, bore them to tears.

How to fix it

Fixing Passive Voice is not that hard and actually can be quite enjoyable in the editing phases of your draft.

  1. Get rid of as many passive verbs as possible. Google passive verbs or helping verbs but here is a short list—was, is, are, were, had, to be, being, has been, been, had been. Rewrite your sentences using strong active verbs. In the above example, we replaced the verb “was” with “erupted” and rewrote the sentence.
  2. Don’t use emotive words at all in your story. Look for all the words that is clearly an emotion— happy, angry, sad, depressed, stoic, etc. Describe those emotions through actions, dialogue, and/or body language.
  3. Get rid of filler words tagged with verbs. Cry out, let out, screamed out are common examples. Instead of, “He cried out a sob,” use, “He sobbed.”
  4. Get rid of filler verbs such as saw, heard, knew, notice, recognize. 99% of the time these verbs are unnecessary. Instead of, “The next thing I knew, I saw a man approach me with a gun,” use, “A man approached me with a gun.”

Introducing Author Jordan Petrarca

jordan petrarca fb profile

 

Dragon Soul Press proudly presents Author Jordan Petrarca has joined the ranks! His expertise resides in organized crime and fantasy novels. Learn more about this author here.

 

Q: Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

A: No, even though my last name looks kind of hard to pronounce, I think it’s cool and I love the Italian heritage behind it.

Q: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

A: I would tell my younger self to not be so hard on yourself, be confident and believe in what you write. Oh, and stop being so lazy and start writing more!

Q: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

A: When I was in sixth grade, I wrote a play called “The Murder of Big Bird” for an English assignment. The teacher loved it so much that she had me cast some of my classmates and perform it in front of the class. The classroom roared with laughter throughout the entire performance and it amazed me how much I could connect with an audience through simple words and beloved characters.

Q: What does literary success look like to you?

A: To me, literary success can be as simple as even just one person telling you how much they enjoyed reading something you wrote from your own imagination. Especially, my wife…Of course, I would love seeing the whole world enjoy it, but in the end, I just want my family to be proud of me.

Q: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

A: The research I do for writing is simple. I watch movies, read books, and play video games that inspire me to be creative.  Years back I didn’t have the confidence to write an entire novel, but after reading over thirty books in a year, I started to believe that I had the tools to write one.

Q: How many hours a day do you write?

A: I have a fairly busy life, but when I’m writing a manuscript, I spend about four hours a day writing.  Mostly at night because I spend time with my twin girls before they go to bed.

Q: What was your hardest scene to write?

A: When I wrote Mafia University, the words flowed pretty easily because I’ve had the idea in my head for the last fifteen years.  But if I had to choose which scene was the hardest to write, it would have to be the opening scene.  It’s a brutal scene, but it makes you want to read what happens next.

Q: What is your favorite childhood book?

A: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Q: How long on average does it take you to write a book?

A: It takes me about 4-6 months to write a book.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: On Facebook, on Twitter, and on my Amazon Page.

How to Create a One-Sentence Punch

Ah, the dreaded blurb so small you have to condense your entire book into a single sentence. In the literary world, this is often referred to as the elevator pitch, stemming from trying to sell your book to someone with the same amount of time as riding in an elevator, but without the uncomfortable staring. How do you do that when your book is something like 80k – 120k words long, has multiple main characters, a dozen supporting characters, and a plot along with two subplots?

First off, let’s think of how many words we get to use for our sentence. At the very most, twenty-five. Any more than that, we’re asking for a headache by creating a run-on sentence.

Second, we now examine the overall plot and break it down into three parts:

  1. The Main Character
  2. The Overall Conflict
  3. The Villain

Let’s take the example of a book titled Fallen From the Stars:

A human with no memory tries to adapt while dealing with prejudice from the elves as the village prepares for the arrival of the Bloody Baron.

These parts can be in any order, but typically, you want to start it with the main character. The human (Main Character) with no memory (the Overall Conflict – Man vs. Himself) tries to adapt while dealing with prejudice from the elves (Villain) as the village prepares for the arrival of the Bloody Baron (Villain).

The key point to summarization is always write it about the plot of your story. With that in mind, writing a one-sentence, a paragraph, or a full-page proposal shouldn’t prove too challenging.

Happy Writing!

Introducing Author V.P. Allasander

logo (1)Dragon Soul Press is proud to announce Author V.P. Allasander is joining the ranks with dark, twisted fairytales! Enjoy an interview with the author himself.

Q: If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?

I think I would love to live in New Orleans because my favorite series that I am writing now (except for the high fantasy ones) is set in Louisiana. And, ever since The Originals took off on CW, I am just in love with the French Quarter. And I do love witches and voodoo. So, yes, I would love to live there and write books one day.

Q: What has influenced you the most as a writer?

I think it is mostly reading books that made me want to tell stories. I started reading at a very young age, you see, and I picked up a lot of fantasy and mystery thrillers to read. It was when I was in the eighth grade that my English teacher had me write a short story for some competition and ever since then, I have felt the urge to write stories. I started off with short stories and then started writing fanfiction. Even now, reading books makes me want to write better stories. Apart from that, watching TV shows and observing people and the events around me has also influenced me in some respects.

Q: What is your favorite genre to read, and why?

Speculative Fiction, hands down. I prefer the fantasy side of speculative fiction (urban, high, dark, epic), but I also sometimes read post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, and dystopian. I also read a lot of horror. Since I read in this genre avidly, these are also the genres I write in.

Q: How many drafts do your books generally go through before publication?

As many drafts as are needed. However, I’ve been writing for a long time, and if my writing in the first draft is really good, it will have fewer subsequent drafts. The thing with me is I distill unnecessary plot sequences during the outlining phase itself. So, when I write, I have almost structurally edited it. Of course, my beta readers and editors may also suggest what to remove later on.

Q: What is your favorite word, and why?

Adamantine would be my favorite word. It is a synonym to ‘adamant’, but it does sound more beautiful than it. Also because that word is quite close to adamantium (read: Wolverine), though it has really no relation to it. Just because it is closer to the word in Wolverine, I love it.

Q: What is your writing Kryptonite?

Reading badly written books. It does affect my writing juju and I really get the worst story on paper or a good story badly executed, just because badly written books destroyed my mood.

Q: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I really cannot count. A lot of books just lie there on my PC. However, I am going to start publishing in 2019, so you can expect a marathon.

Q: If you didn’t write, what would you do instead?

Frankly speaking, I do not know what I would do if I didn’t know how to write. But if pushed hard, I would probably be in the branding segment or retail.

Q: What is your favorite childhood book?

I will definitely say anything by Enid Blyton, Franklin Dixon, and Carolyn Keene, but if you are seeking something that really influenced me, it has to be Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

You can connect with me on my personal Facebook profile, Twitter, or Instagram. You can also email me. I do reply to all. As an author, I want to be accessible. And I love conversing with readers, being one myself. If you are in my city, you are also welcome to meet me personally or in the umpteen numbers of book club meetings and literature festivals I help organize.