I’m deep into editing my next novel, Lucky Portbraddon; I have a horror of repetition – it really annoys me when I read books and the same vocabulary is lazily used over and over. There was one book, and I don’t remember who wrote it or what it was, maybe I didn’t finish it, but the author loved the word ‘numinous’, which apparently means “arousing spiritual or religious emotion; mysterious or awe-inspiring”; it’s an adjective, derived from the Latin word ‘numen’… I had to look it up when I read it, and I’ve just had to look it up again because I’d forgotten what it meant! The author, whoever he or she was, used it over and over, with no special significance to the repletion, it was obviously just a favourite word.

It’s easy to overuse little common words – I’ve spent hours eliminating too many, such as:

  • just
  • alright
  • said
  • hand
  • handsome
  • went to
  • looked

and my own apparent favourites:

  • anxious/anxiously
  • jaunty
  • mumble/mutter/murmur
  • hug/hold/embrace
  • lumpen
  • weep/cry

Thanks to the search function it’s easy to find them and replace or get rid of them.

On my latest read through, on my Kindle which helps distance the story from me, and makes me more objective in my editing, I realised that people kept changing colour. I guess, in an effort to ‘show not tell’, people were forever going white/red/pale, flushing and blushing, losing their colour or having their colour high in their cheeks. They were becoming  light traffic lights!

I have just found and checked every single time I have used pale; sometimes I have changed it to something else, sometimes I’ve cut it out altogether or rewritten the sentence. I have lost over fifty ‘pales’; words I used instead, included:

  • anemic
  • ashen/ashy
  • blanched
  • bloodless
  • colourless
  • faint
  • feeble
  • gray
  • pallid
  • pasty
  • sallow
  • sick
  • sickly
  • wan
  • washed-out
  • waxen
  • white

If you haven’t read any of my other books, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

2 thoughts on “Traffic light faces

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