A couple of months ago Lynn Viehl had a great post about weed words—words that come up over and over (and over) in our writing. Most of us are probably guilty of overusing the same few descriptive words—really, terrific, great, wonderful, exciting and probably. What
Sharon Wildwind says if she’s not vigilant her characters tend to shiver a lot. Janet Koch confesses in her last manuscript “I had people whirling and spinning all over the place. And lots of throats were mentioned--throats being cleared, breaths being caught in throats, fear rising in throats.”
My most persistent weed words are action words; hands running through hair, walking and very weirdly, vomiting. People in my books tend to have a lot of hair and they’re always running their hands through it. It makes sense that hair would show up a lot in my writing because I am a little hair obsessed. What I dream of is hair like Angelina Jolie’s or Jessica Simpson’s. What I have is hair like Clay Aiken circa the early American Idol days. Which my mother tried to remedy with a succession of Toni home perms. Picture Clay Aiken with an afro and you’ll get the picture. No wonder everybody in my books is always touching their gorgeous hair. (Note: the results of all those home perms have nothing to do with the actual Toni home perm and everything to do with the fact that my mother believed if twenty minutes would result in soft, gentle curls then forty minutes would yield fabulous, bountiful curls.)
All the walking that shows up in my writing has a certain logic as well. I walk a lot. I always have. What I can’t figure out is why my subconscious always has to have someone heaving in a book.
I never seem to see my weed words when a book is in manuscript form. When I’m doing re-writes I’m zealous about looking for the overuse of words such as probably, slowly, a lot and really. But I don’t seem to see the all the times a character is walking along pulling her hands through her hair. Or vomiting. Or maybe the truth is that I see them but every single occurrence seems essential to the story. At least at the time.
So what are your weed words? Do your characters whirl or shiver? Do you have a thing for hair? Or doors? Or queasiness?