Your story may be dynamite, but stylistically these energy zappers could be undermining it. They’re subtle but can do damage nonetheless. Avoid them to add energy, or use them to dampen when you want to.
- Negative constructions
“Is not” and “do not” sap energy, because readers prefer to hear about what something is or what someone does. Often negative construction is paired with weak verb choices too.
Ralph did not like the way Bill treated Liza.
Better: Bill’s treatment of Liza disturbed/disgusted/horrified Ralph.
- Wishy-washy constructions
Be confident about what you write. Is your character walking or not? Is the baby crying or not? Did Jimmy understand or not? Using started to/began to/seemed to constructions weaken the action.
Tom started to get up and close the door.
Better: Tom jumped up and closed the door.
- Unnecessary tags in internal dialogue
When we are “in the character’s thoughts” seeing, feeling and hearing what the character sees, feels and hears, using “I see”or “I hear” or “I feel” is unnecessary, and distances the reader and lowers energy.
I hear a phone ring in the telephone booth.
Better: A phone rings in the telephone booth.
Avoid turning an action word into the subject of the sentence i.e. using the noun equivalent of a verb. To up the energy, re-order the sentence to let the verb do the work.
They had a discussion about .
Better: they discussed
- Verb weakeners
Re-order the sentence to eliminate these “weakeners”: need to; should; might; could
You need to get motivated.
Better: Motivate yourself.
- Neutrality – non-human references.
Readers feel close to people not things. So whenever you refer to a person in a non-human way, you distance the reader.
If you're the type of individual who likes luxury, Gateway Spa is for you.
Better: If you love luxury, Gateway Spa is for you.
So easy to do. How often do we hear about the new baby; or joining together. By default, babies are “new”; joining things results in them being “together”. Restating the obvious sucks energy.
Sam kneeled down to examine the sword
Better: Sam kneeled to examine the sword
- Passive construction /Grammar expletives
No, we aren’t talking swear words here. In grammar circles, a grammar expletive is any word or phrase that does not contribute meaning. The most common culprits are: It is; there are; there is; etc.at the beginning of a sentence.
It is two hours before the sun rises.
Better: The sun rises in two hours.
- Meaningless intensifiers.
Really, very, so.What is the difference between a tasty dinner and a really tasty dinner? If you want a degree more of tastiness, use a stronger verb rather than an intensifier. A delicious dinner.
He knew Dana was very smart.
Better: He knew Dana was brilliant.
- Latinate vs. Anglo-saxon words
Latinate words (those ending in -ate. -ite. -ation and other Latin bases) usually refer to areas of law, administration; government and abstraction. It’s a throw-over from the days when England was governed by Rome and later by France. Anglo Saxon words were the tongue of the governed, the workers – words to do with farming and labouring. That’s why they carry a more earthy energy.
He excavated a cavity. (Latinate)
He dug a hole. (Anglo-Saxon)