For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?
How many times do your characters look at something? Mine do. All the time. I never thought it was a problem. I feel really bad now, because I am the
“Show Vs. Tell Barracuda”, and I absolutely missed this…
If you say your character looks at something, you are telling the reader that they “look”. Show the reader instead.
Example: The wind blew cold, and Magellan looked up into the trees. The branches bent and shook over his head.
Now, I honestly would not think this was telly, because I showed you what he was seeing right afterward. My writing partner did the same thing in her manuscript. The publisher highlighted the “looked” and said “rather than telling us what he is doing, show us what he sees instead.”
Suggested rewrite: The wind blew cold, and Magellan pulled his jacket closer. The branches bent and shook over his head.
Here, I took out the offensive “looked” kept the characterization by giving Magellan something to do (pulling his jacket closer), which gives me a place to mention his name. (In case it’s needed) I left the “what he saw” exactly the way it was originally written. You can assume he looked up. The whole scene actually flows better, and all I did was take a moment to pull out the word “look”.
Even better for you word count barracudas out there… count ‘em… there is one less word in the corrected example. Yea for me!
Here’s another easy one: He ran down the hall and looked at the dark stone walls. The sconces were still lit and the light danced across the ceiling.
Easy fix: He ran down the dark stone hallway. The sconces were still lit and their light danced across the ceiling.
Now, I’ll be honest… This is not always this easy. I’ve growled a little over some of these. But I am going to try my best to take all of the “looks” out of my novel, unless they are in a personal thought… but I will be looking at those pretty closely as well.
Honestly, I emailed my friend yesterday on this, and she said she’s only taken out “most” of the looks. Once in a while, your characters will have to “look”. I am finding the same thing. But I am finding that a lot of them can be removed easily like the ones above. (We also discussed that we’ve read published novels that have “looks” in them. yes, we know they exist… I’m just letting you know there is a publisher out there that redlined it and asked for a revision.)
I am finding I am taking out all of the “looking” that is being done by a POV character, and leaving some of the looks that are not from the POV character.
For instance, if another character in the room (not the POV character)
looks over at the door, you are not going to tell what they see, because you are not in their POV. Therefore, it might to be okay to leave that look in there.
However, I do not let the POV character look up and see that the other character is looking at the door. Does that make sense?
This, by the way, is just my opinion. If I submit, and get slapped for these “looks” I will let you know ASAP.
If you can, get rid of any and all looking, because this publisher emphatically flagged it. Only look as a last resort.
Hope you found this helpful!
These are such excellent points to keep in mind when editing our drafts. By the way, I added a little something to one of my widgets—and downloaded it to my Kindle tonight. 😉
Phooey. I can’t see on my phone. Love the new avatar puck though!
Looks could kill (sorry, had to say it)
Loved the title of this post. And another thing to watch out for while writing. Will be interested if you manage to slide a couple by…seems the use might be necessary once in a while.
Thanks for helping us to avoid a problem (each eliminated problem is one less blood letting down the line?)
Sometimes if depends on the voice of the novel- but you cannot use voice as an excuse if it can still be written more strongly and still stay in voice – if that makes sense.
Yep. It makes sense…we tend to grab the first word that wanders across sometimes – “look” makes a good placeholder (but would be nice if it automatically colored itself orange or something)
Ooo how about fuchsia?
Thanks for the link to my blog. I started reading Fire in the Woods last night and it’s fantastic. What a thrilling opening. Whatever editing you did seems to have worked.
Yay! So glad to hear. Thank you!