Last week at the wifyr conference, I had the privilege of sitting at the feet of master teacher and author, Martine Leavitt – oh, all right, we sat in school desks – but I learned a million and one awesome writerly traits!
On day one, she asked a classmate to write these on the board:
Fists, teeth, stomach clenching
All manner of breathing
Then she informed us: DO NOT USE THEM ANYMORE. Do not use variations, either.
To be honest, at that moment, I gulped and my heart pounded. My stomach may or may not have been clenching, but yup, I did the crazy breathing thing and my fingers were freezing. Why? Because I’m guilty. GUILTY. Guilty.
These words are now so cliché that every editor and agent in the country develops a brain tic when they read yet another one. If you don’t believe me, check out this recent blog by the fantabulous agent Mary Kole:
So what do we do with these *gasp* overused physical descriptions? In the words of Martine Leavitt, GET RID OF THEM. Just do it.
- And on the wise advice of Rebecca (see comment below), don't worry about this on your first draft. Hit it in the revision stage. -
You can only save one tear experience, either at the very beginning of your story, or at the very end of the climax. Otherwise the tears will mean nothing to the reader. Only use the above clichéd words if you can do it brilliantly - and just once in your entire manuscript.
Use your imagination to come up with alternate ways to show how your character is feeling. Read the best modern books to see how it’s being done.
I’d sigh, but that’s out. Instead I’m attacking my manuscript. Time to slash and burn, then use the other two thirds of my brain to recreate. This will be interesting . . .