Say It Better

Outtakes 146


Say It Better

By Cait Collins


I love finding snappy phrases. They make the author and the story really stand out. One I read recently got to me. “The memory was frozen in amber.” What a picture. I could imagine the image of the man she loved encased forever in the translucent stone. My niece gave me another wonderful image in describing a teenage facial expression. “Her eyes rolled so far back in her head she could see her brain.” I will find a place in a story for that one.

So many times we fall back on the same old phrases instead of looking for the unique. A writer should go for something different. Instead of referring to a kiss as hotter than a fire cracker on the fourth of July, why not say it was hotter than Mt. Etna in full eruption? Better yet, replace those trite statements with bold action verbs. Strong verbs replace adverbs and adverb phrases. They make the story tighter, crisper.

Just for the fun of it, come up with a list of well used phrases and rewrite them. For example, find another way to say “fit to be tied, at wits end, and chomping at the bit”. Romance writers should come up with new phrases for “melted at his touch, set afire by the smoldering look in his eyes, and drawn like a moth to a flame.”

Stephen King is a master with description. Read his depiction of the cellar in IT. I could smell it, taste it, and feel it. It terrified me to the point I could not enter a basement for months. Good descriptive phrases, strong verbs, and catchy sayings only enhance the story we are telling. It’s worth the extra effort to say it better.

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