Check Your Word Choices

Outtakes 382


Check Your Word Choices

By Cait Collins


There are times when I find myself using too many passive sentences and echoing words in my narration. Robert Ray author of The Weekend Novelist Writes the Novel, suggested this exercise during a workshop. You will need a pencil, paper, a timer, and highlighters.

You will be free-writing. Do not think. Do not lift the pencil from the paper. Do not cross out and correct. Just write. The opening sentence begins, “My first boyfriend (or girlfriend) sat across from me….”  Set the timer for five minutes and start writing.

When the timer goes off, put down your pencil.  Do not complete an unfinished sentence.  Read your work.  Using your highlighters, underline the nouns. Highlight your active verbs and circle the passive ones.  Highlight adverbs in a different color, and adjectives in a third color. Now count your strong nouns. How many strong, descriptive nouns are in the paragraphs? Do the adjectives enhance the noun choices?

Count your active verbs and your passive verbs. Do you have more active verbs or more passive verbs? If there are more passive verbs how can you correct this? Adverbs are not your friend, so can you eliminate some adverbs by choosing more active verbs?

Free-writing allows the subconscious mind to take over and pilot the narrative. It allows our instincts to lead us to choices we might not consciously make. Using exercise like this we can develop a better vocabulary, improve our word choices, and create better narration in our stories.

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