Friday, May 11, 2012

Look, Turn, Walk and Descriptive Language

First, I have to tell you something.  There are three words that are killing me right now.

  1. Look
  2. Turn
  3. Walk
As if finding so many of them in this draft of FTA (From the Ashes) wasn't annoying enough, there aren't many synonyms for each word.  Now that I've cut out a lot of 'look's, I realize I've written 'gaze' too much instead!

Yet sometimes, there are actions that seem to be lacking in words to describe them.  Or sometimes, there are too many.

For example:

Glare is a word that describes a facial expression (or the way light reflects off a surface... but that's not the one we're worrying about.)  A glare is fairly easy for me to describe without actually saying the word:

He grits his teeth in frustration while his eyes hold my gaze with such a burning, angry intensity that...

And then the story would continue from there.  The way he is looking at 'me' is (hopefully) described so that the reader can picture his expression without being bored by an entire paragraph of descriptive language.  Or so that the reader isn't cheated by having to simply read:  He glares at me.

But what if I want to describe the way someone looks when they're concerned?  Or afraid?  Or annoyed?

It seems that I'm using the same words over and over again to describe these looks.  And it sounds something like this:

A look of fear flickers across her face...


Describing looks too much or too little is probably one of my fatal flaws.

Do you guys have trouble with descriptive language?  What looks/actions/objects do you have trouble describing?

Have a great weekend!



Really though, what does someone look like when they're afraid?  This is really bugging me, now.


Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Jess, your post had me laughing. My characters "look: too much too. And, yeah, "gaze", "stare", all of those, still have your character looking too much. I spend a lot of time pondering how to get around such basic actions. Part of the problem is that people really do "look" a lot. Good luck with solving this problem in your draft.

Pk Hrezo said...

Yep... I overuse look and gaze way too much too. And I read something once that said you should never use the word "walk." Part of what makes our task so hard is the varying the verbs and expressions. For fear? a chill... hairs stand on end ... eyes widen.... mouth goes dry ....breathing becomes short, or held.

Angela Brown said...

Me and gaze also have a terrible affair. It's just that it's been than having someone's eyes doing oddball things and a reader imagining these things in the wilds of their mind.

As for fear, you can try to go beyond a look, though fear can be referred to with the widening of pupils, trembling lips, an uncontrollable tick at the corner of the eye, rapid blinking, flared nostrils or the way a person appears to shrink the presence of another person.

Esther Spurrill-Jones said...

Fear can also cause the face to go pale or, an even better word: ashen. And it involves the whole body: the hands shake, knees tremble, and the character could look poised to flee.

Reiko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chuck said...

I'm simple I long as you alter those words enough I'm just fine reading them. Someone who's afraid might look like they've been stabbed...a thought anyway.

Haddock said...

Its funny that we never think of all the possibilities of the meaning of a word.
OK don't glare at me :-)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm going through my wip today to find those annoying crutch words. I found I was using hand a lot. As in hand someone something. I had to go back to change a lot of them. And that was the easy word to fix for echoes. Turn, look, and walk are also my weaknesses.

Mark K said...

Now you've got me afraid to re-reading my story posts... damn it! But what you say is so true, that we forget how often our way of speaking is constructed of a defined number of words, most of which become repeated over and over without realising.

Found your blog via PK's blog. So glad to have found your here, so if you don't mind, I'll be taking up residence in a dark corner somewhere :)

As for the 'look of fear' - thinking back to seeing a face in fear I think of 'contorted', but then people always have that in-built factor of blood draining from the extremities when scared in preparation for the fight or flight reaction, so they tend to look drained, pallid and almost deathly. It is a difficult one I will agree.

Rebecca B said...

Great post. I'm working through a draft right now and deleting all the extraneous "just". I overuse that word to an insane degree.

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