This tip comes from my experience in completing the rewrites for my upcoming book. I’ve written tips on word choice before, and that fact returned to me full force, particularly this week.
It is so important to keep away from passive verbs and “crutch” words–that is, those words that you tend to use all the time. “Gaze” is one of my crutches. Also my characters tend to sigh and groan a lot.
Instead you should use active verbs and find different ways of displaying emotion. For example, “He was running to catch up to the girl” is not very powerful or effective. “He ran to catch up to the girl” is better, but “He raced after the girl” is much better, though I’m sure there are much better sentences to use. Other words can also be used to describe something about both the character and the situation without adding useless adjectives or adverbs.
And in my example crutch word, gaze can be replaced by study, survey, glance, glare, or other words depending on the situation.
So how do you find all these wonderful words? A thesaurus. I have rediscovered the love of my thesaurus. And I’m not talking about the one that comes with your word processor, though that is a good start. I have found that my old, torn up thesaurus is vastly superior despite being so old (although, my copy of MS Word is also old).
I also mean a real thesaurus not a dictionary/thesaurus. The one I use I got free for signing up for something or other . . . I don’t remember; it was years ago. But it is worth it to find a good one. And I don’t think it has to be in book form. Someone told me about thesaurus.com, but I’ve never used it. I suppose what is needed is a thesaurus that is thorough.
It’s just one of those tools you should invest in if you are planning on taking writing seriously. It doesn’t have to be a big investment, and you may be able to find it free online. But take the time to find one.