Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I'm not talking about walking supports. I mean words. Specifically those go-to words each author has, which we pull out of pockets or felt Crown Royal bags and toss into manuscripts like we're hoping they'll grow into something fruitful. Or that we think will disguise the text around them, some sort of linguistic camouflage.

These words are either familiar to the point of invisibility or exotic favorites that we latched on to at some point and feel compelled to write down at rates vastly exceeding common usage. Sometimes they slip past without drawing notice, other times they're like broccoli bits in otherwise flawless smiles. One of my favorite authors for a time had an inexplicable fondness for "soupcon". For the record, I really like saying "inexplicable".

My crutches are pretty simple. They're subconscious fillers, that slight roll backwards before I stomp down on the accelerator. For instance, if I were to run a "find" through the first draft of any of my stories, approximately 15% of the words will be either "well" or "fuck". A shocking 85% of lines of dialogue will start with "well". "Fuck" will be used as a verb no more than once.

(Those figures are made up, but I know I use those words more than I should.)

I noticed "a bit" and "rather" in two recently-published novels by two different authors. I'm assuming they are crutches specific to those writers. So what are yours, my dears? What words creep in or crop up while you're writing? Which do you double-dingo dare yourself to use?


  1. "Felt". Mine is "felt". I always have to go back and edit it out.I like the idea of daring myself to use words. I will need to find a nice obscure one and work it in somehow.

  2. "Suddenly." I use it so much that it seems very little happens to my characters at a normal pace.

    Also, "sigh" and "frown." Can't name you a single person in real life who does either as often as the MC.

    Words I want to use? Exacerbate, flounce, and marsupial: all because they are fun to pronounce.

  3. then, i've searched and removed the buggers!
    but is another, but not as bad (ha ha)

  4. "The world slid into slo-mo."

    "Mouse loves her pointy toys."

    And "triphammering" of hearts in a number of stories.

  5. @Jen Felt...the fabric? Because that would be unusual! :)

    @CobraMisfit Ooh, flounce is a good one. And, uh, best of luck with marsupial.

    @Tara Oh, those are sneaky ones. Insidious, even!

    @Ace But I do so love how much Mouse loves her pointy toys. :D

  6. Mine are boring, 'just', 'still', and 'like'. And I'm a total California girl about 'like'; I use it when I should be using 'as if'.

  7. I just cannot stop using just in every other sentence. *sigh*

  8. @Margo I've been pretty good about eliminating "like" in my writing, though I say it a lot. However, lately I''ve been inserting it into certain characters' dialogue, and it feels...weird.

    @Girl Friday Well, just maybe, like, try to avoid just, a little bit more.