Energize Your Words

There are lots of ways to add energy to your prose. One of the simplest is to break your habit of using puny phrases such as “there are.” How can I rephrase that first sentence to add more power to it? Here are a few of many alternatives:
  • Would you like to add energy to your prose?
  • One of the best ways to add energy to your prose is …
  • Your prose will be  more compelling if you
  • Readers won’t be able to tear their eyes away when you energize your prose with these simple techniques.

A more typical example for lifestory and memoir writers describes a living room:
It was painted pale green. There was a sofa along the end wall. It was flanked by end tables.
That description reads like a bullet list Let’s try again:
End tables flanked the sofa set against the end wall in the pale green living room.
I’d like to know more details about the sofa, like it's color and style, but at least this second description artfully combines the bullet-list sentences into a single flowing one. 

Phrases such as it was, there were, or any variations of these are a form of passive writing. They suck the life from your words. Breathe vigor into your stories by rewriting to avoid them. In fact, rewording these sentences gives you the opportunity to use more imaginative description, which further energizes your story. For example,
It was really cold out that day.
might become
The biting cold pierced my lungs like a knife.
Knowing where to look for the leaks is the first step toward energizing your stories. Your imagination will grow stronger as you challenge it to plug those leaks. 

Write now: pull out an old story and look for it was or there were phrases. Reword them to eliminate the phrases, adding relevant description as you edit.


Linda Austin said...

Great tips, Sharon!

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thanks Linda. I've been meaning to write about those pet peeves for ages.

Serena said...

Wonderful tips...thank you!

Amber Lea Starfire said...

All good advice, Sharon — demonstrating that prose problems usually (I'm tempted to say always) have more than one "right" answer.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Serena, you are so welcome.

Amber, heck, let's go with always. It has a nice ring, and I do believe it.