There are two ways you can make every word matter: don’t use unnecessary words and make the words you use as specific and unique as possible. This is the key to not writing like everyone else. In other words, making every word counts contributes more to honing in on finding and improving upon your voice. In the remainder of this article we will look at how applying our two-fold criteria helps make every word count for all nominates. In the next post we will look at predicates.
As the subjects and objects of all action, it is hard to look at nouns as word where possibly one may be unnecessary. The exception that I see may be with the use of personal pronouns as modifiers. A writer may compose a narrative about Johnny, but not use the word “Johnny” with every reference to him.
A common rule is one noun and no more than two modifiers before the noun needs to be mentioned again. For example, “Johnny poured a cup of coffee. He stirred in the milk and sugar with more stirs than needed because his focus was on the letter sitting on the counter. With sudden haste, Johnny ripped open the envelope and read the letter. The further he read, the deeper he breathed in through his nose. Johnny dropped the letter on the counter and took one large mindless drink of coffee. He slammed mug down on the counter and shuttered when he noticed how he spilled coffee on the letter. Johnny wiped off the letter the best he could. He wished he had never even learned to make coffee. He wished he had never met her. Johnny took the letter to the couch and picked up his cell phone from the side table. He called his wife and held his breath as the phone rang.”
This is just a sample paragraph. It is made easier because there is only one person acting. When there is narrative with two or more people you really need to pay close attention to modifiers. Also, some writers try to be cute and use a different word or phrase in place of he or him so as to not overuse the pronoun. To say “the banker’s son” or “Marsha’s husband” in place of the personal pronoun makes the writer seem as if he is trying to appear cleaver to the reader, and readers do not like that.
A difficulty with many writers is the overuse and misuse of modifiers. The basic problems with adjectives is that they are notorious tellers, when you need prose filled with showers. Adjectives do nothing more than describe the noun. Most of these descriptions are unnecessary. The writer likes them, so they think they are necessary. The way that you as an author can determine if a given modifier is truly necessary is if the added description contributes to the narrative.
Do we really need to know that the man was tall or that the dog was wet? If we as readers need to know this to understand the story, then show the reader by action instead of using weak adjectives. In place of referring to “the tall man,” show us how he ducks to enter through doorways. Instead of writing about a “wet dog,” show us the dog jumping the swimming pool or shaking the water off afterward in that particular way that dogs like to shake off water.
Many adjectives are useless because they are redundant. Don’t tell us about the blue sky or the green grass. Skies are blue and grass is green, unless it’s not. Then you can tell us about the red sky or the tan grass. That is different, as well as interesting. To me the best function of adjectives is the sounds they can creative within the prose. Sometimes a well used adjective can create poetry, even music within a narrative. This is the great use of adjectives in forming a beautiful voice for you as the author.
The point is that Creative Writers always make every word count. Useless words are cut, if not added in the first place. Words are useless and unnecessary if they do not contribute to the telling of the story. And by contribute, I mean they perform a necessary function in understanding the tale. This clean writing is easy on the reader, and they will show their appreciation by reading even more of your efforts.