What stupid writing thing did your beta find this week? Darth Vader Syndrome

My characters breathe.  There.  I said it.  THEY BREATHE.  People breathe, right?  Get over it!

Ugh.  A beta recently said “your characters breathe a lot.”  Hmmmmm.  Do they?  Nifty little count-it trick to the rescue (Click here if you need the trick)

Yikes!  In 50 pages different characters breathed deeply, or took some sort of a breath 23 times!

No No No NO!  She smacks herself in the head.

Now…. breathing.  It’s normal.  Everyone does it, right?

Ergghhhhhh.  I think the deep breathing was a spastic reaction to making sure they don’t sigh too much.  I guess my sighs turned into deep breaths.  Now they all walk around sounding like Darth Vader.

The problem is, this seems normal to me.  If I think hard about something, or I am about to say something important, I feel myself taking in a deep breath.  Some call that a sigh.  Because I do it, my characters do it.  I guess I need to curb that habit.

It’s hard though, isn’t it?  There are just so many descriptive words in the English language that don’t jostle you out of the story because they are too “odd”.  It leaves us stepping, looking, sighing, and taking deep breaths.

Ugh.  No one said this writing gig was easy, my friends.

You just have to stop breathing.

I’m talking about your characters.  Breathe, QUICK!  You’re turning blue!

Whew!  That was a close one.  You guys gotta stop taking me so literally.

Watch for words you use too much.  Trust me, you won’t even see them.  Someone will have to point it out to you and make you feel silly.


18 responses to “What stupid writing thing did your beta find this week? Darth Vader Syndrome

  1. Pingback: The Girl With The Ikea Table, er, I Mean, Dragon Tattoo « journeyofjordannaeast

  2. Apparently, my characters grunt. A lot. Darn breathing and grunting.

  3. Love your posts soooo much!

  4. Marie Gilbert

    I loved this blog. It’s funny and informative at the same time.

  5. Much as I want to run and do a “find” in my current manuscript, I must resist! It just went to a beta reader on Friday. I’m sure there will be lots of things I’ve overdone…. Gotta love that “find” feature!

  6. I use THAT way too much in my first draft, and its become a running joke for my three beta readers to see how many I accidentally slip in, even though they’ve made me so conscious od using that word… see?


  7. Deep breath! Okay, I’m ready to tackle a new challenge–breathing. Darn. I thought I tackled a bunch from smile and suddenly last time. Now I have to see how much my characters breathe? Will it ever end?

  8. I use an online tool from my premium subscription to SavvyAuthors.com that gives you an analysis of all overused words. It has an industry standard for any word for your MS length and then gives you a chart with how many MORE times you used that particular word. It also highlights all instances throughout the document. It’s very handy.

  9. I’ve got many words I search for to clean things up. But this is something my beta pointed out with my ms: you don’t hear my mc’s name (it was in 1st person) until several pages in. The stupid part is that two months before I told her the same thing with her ms.

    Fresh eyes are so important. And thank goodness for find/replace.

  10. Okay Jennifer, tags can be a challenge. It’s breathing, sitting, standing, walking … WATCH the “ings” people. Don’t let them clutch their middle too much or you’ll have to call in a doctor to fix what ails them. Tip from making all and many more of these mistakes? I keep a chub book of what I think are my most over-used words and then use “find” in word to search and destroy. I erradicate all directional pronouns … after all we can’t really look up at the floor or down at the sky. Watch those … “as” as she walked, as he talked: worse: as she was walking she had been thinking. Not too many of those she had, she had stuff either. Tags and action are a trap … don’t be a mouse and get your nose caught in them 🙂

  11. It’s a challenge, to find different reactions, but once you know what mistake you are making, whether it’s POV or visceral responses or cliches, you can find them in your ms and fix them before your critique partners see them.
    I hear so many new writers say, Oh, no, I can’t show my work until it gets better.’
    Hello? That’s how you get better.
    Kudos for sharing your faux pas with your beta reader, Jennifer, and thanks for sharing your lessons with us.

  12. Great trick. My characters nodded a lot!

  13. You are funny Jennifer…and thank God for those beta-readers! 🙂

  14. This is funny. And….. in a sense of “words used to much” true probably for all authors, just a different word. I use too many pronouns.
    To the Thesaurus we go! And I just saw that you could replace “breathe” with “open the floodgates” – much more doable, don’t you think? 😉

  15. Hmmm…. Hadn’t even thought of that. I’ve learned a lot reading your blog!

  16. HEHEHEHEHEHE! This made me laugh! Also made me painfully aware of my own breathing… oh gosh…

  17. I totally get what you’re saying. I’m a shameful abuser of adverbs. If I were to get caught, they’d have me put away.

    Whoever ‘they’ are.

    Wait, it’s WHOMEVER ‘they’ are.

    Suddenly I’m self-conscious as all get-out.

    Oh, no.. I did it again!