The other day, as I listened to myself jokingly refer to yet one more thing or circumstance as “awesome,” I realized that in using this term so frequently I was probably now sounding less ironic than moronic.
Writers work with words. We paint word pictures. We use words to communicate ideas, describe a time and place, and create emotional, spiritual, and intellectual landscapes. Getting stuck in clich?s is not good. I need to branch out and use new vocabulary.
I wondered what other words and phrases in my lexicon were growing tired from overuse, and this got me to thinking about other writers who similarly hedge themselves in by reusing the same phrases.
I remembered that Carrie Vaughn’s characters frequently release breath they didn’t realize they were holding, as a means of signifying tension. My characters do a lot of sighing, shrugging and fist-clenching (Mike will probably tell you this is because I do much of the same in real life). John Scalzi’s characters often run into situations where, “If (X happens), (Y) will be the least of (his/her) problems.”
(For the record: I love Vaughn and Scalzi?their books, at least?both.)
That last example I noticed only once in Agent to the Stars, but it was all over the place in Old Man’s War. But you know what? I don’t recall coming across that phrase once in the OMW sequel, The Ghost Brigades. Maybe Scalzi recognized that descriptive crutch, and moved on to more verdant word pastures.
There’s still a lot of sighing and shrugging in Iduna’s Apples (for which I’m now rewriting the entire last third from scratch, so that’s why it’s delayed this time), but there’s less fist-clenching and more eye-rolling now, so at least that’s a start. I don’t know that I’ll be searching ebay for old copies of Wordly Wise (and I’m sorry, but I liked the look of those books better when they had an owl on the cover), but it does mean making an effort not to become my own worst clich?.
And I really should find another word than “awesome” to bandy about. It’s worse than “groovy.” I doubt I’m anywhere near claiming a pithy catch phrase, like Kurt Vonnegut’s “So it goes,” but a girl can dream, right?
Creative Commons photo by Alex of Gothenburg.