Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Eyes Have It: Before and After Tips To Eliminate Glance, Gaze, Eyes, Look, etc.

In April I shared a post about varying sentence beginnings. You can read Variety is the Spice of Writing for a refresher. Today, we’re moving on to my biggest problem area.

I am an eye person. Let’s just get that out of the way right off the bat. If I could get away with not having to explain why I'm staring at people and making notes, I’d constantly study people’s eye movements, the little squints, tics, gazes, glances, and nuances that make them tick. But staring at strangers can get you in trouble.

But that’s what movies are for! :)



On my Claiming Mariah edits, my editor pointed out my excessive use of eyes, gaze, glance, look, looked, stare, peeked, etc. and asked me to try to eliminate some of the repetition. I managed to trim 60% of those words, and there’s no telling how many I had already cut before turning in the manuscript.

Other writers might have a bit of a problem with taste, smell, or sound, but I suspect the majority of us get a bit stuck on eyes since that is the best and most reliable way of reading the thoughts and feelings of others. Even though there’s nothing wrong with using sight as the vehicle to communicate feelings, emotion, and movement in our writing, the purpose of editors in pointing out the overuse of that particular sense is to get us to utilize the other senses that we tend to forget about.

I’m not going to include very much lead up to these examples since they’re plucked at random from Claiming Mariah, and my current novella, The Evergreen Bride (Barbour, October, 2014), so if the examples don’t make a lot of sense out of context, just concentrate on the lesson at hand. Yes, Virginia, I got dinged for the sense of sight even in my latest manuscript. Hangs head in shame.

Let’s jump right in. I'll give you the before example, then the after example, and a short explanation of my thought processes as I fixed it. Since I’m a packrat, I have the before and after versions of hundreds of uses of eyes, gaze, glance, look. Glancing over (oops!) these examples was an eye-opener. Honestly, I throw out references to sight like Santa throwing candy in a Christmas parade. Sheesh!


BEFORE
How much sorrow had her father’s greed caused? How much heartache? And how much did his son know of their fathers’ shared past? The accusation in Slade Donovan’s steady gaze told her, and the heat of fresh shame flooded her cheeks.

AFTER
The accusation on Slade Donovan’s face told her, and the heat of fresh shame flooded her cheeks.

How: Wow, all I had to do was concentrate and think about what else Mariah could see about Slade that would show her his reaction. I realized I didn’t have to limit what she sees to his eyes, but could pull the “camera” back and include his face. I could have even mentioned his stance, but just pulling the “camera” back a bit and mentioning his face, not just his “steady gaze”, worked here, and got rid of the word gaze, which occurred a whopping 181 times in the manuscript I turned in.


BEFORE
Slade glanced at his brother, his gaze lingering on the jagged crescent-shaped scar on his face.

AFTER
Slade glanced at his brother, wincing at the jagged crescent-shaped scar on his face.

How: Even though I didn’t get rid of glanced, I was able to zap that gaze again by using the word wince. And it gives us more of a visual of Slade’s reaction anyway, doesn’t it?


BEFORE
An incredulous look crossed Mariah’s face, and her dark eyes flashed fire.

AFTER
Mariah faced him then, an incredulous look on her face, color blooming in her pale cheeks.

How: I pulled back and described Mariah’s face, not just her eyes.

BEFORE
Slade stared across the water. How could he tell the boy what he thought when he didn’t even know himself?

AFTER
Slade scraped a hand over his mouth. How could he tell the boy what he thought when he didn’t even know himself?

How: We’ve all seen that movement, haven’t we? Someone rubbing a hand down their jaw or across their face as they debate how to answer someone.

BEFORE
“You scared?” Slade leaned on the pitchfork and looked at the boy.
“Yeah.” Jim looked down and scuffed the dirt. “I’ve never been to church. Pa wouldn’t ever let us go.”

AFTER
“You scared?” Slade leaned on the pitchfork and eyed the boy.
“Yeah.” Jim scuffed the dirt. “I’ve never been to church. Pa wouldn’t ever let us go.”

How: I used the work “looked” twice here, and had already used “looked” somewhere else close by. I did leave “eyed the boy” in there. With all the sight words highlighted, I changed Slade’s to look and just removed the reference to the boy looking down. Most people will probably picture the boy looking down as he is scuffing the dirt.


BEFORE
The preacher placed his hands on either side of the podium and looked out over the congregation. Slade swore the reverend’s gaze lingered on him longer than anybody else.

AFTER
The preacher placed his hands on either side of the podium and looked out over the congregation. Slade swore the reverend’s attention lingered on him longer than anybody else.

BEFORE
Her hair looked like a cross between a rat’s nest and a cobweb.

AFTER
Her hair resembled a cross between a rat’s nest and a cobweb.

How: Is there another word that you can use instead of gaze? In the two examples above, attention worked just as well as gaze; resembled as good as “looked like”. One word. Boom. Problem solved.



From The Evergreen Bride:

BEFORE
Annabelle glanced around. “By the way, where is my brother? I can’t wait to tell him my news.”

AFTER
Annabelle swiveled on the stool. “By the way, where is my brother? I can’t wait to tell him my news.”

BEFORE
Samuel glanced at her. “Don’t even think about it.”

AFTER
Samuel took a step toward her. “Don’t even think about it.”

How: I tried to picture Annabelle in my mind. In this scene, she was sitting on a stool, so instead of having her glance around, I decided she could swivel on the stool. Works just as well, and gets ride of my repetitive glances. Is there an action, a movement, the character can perform, like Annabelle swiveling on the stool, or Samuel taking a step, instead of glancing or looking at the other one?



Final Tips

Don’t feel that you have to eliminate all references to sight. Eyes, gaze, look, glance, stared, peeked, etc. are all a very important part of a manuscript, and especially a romance. I kept a lot of great turns-of-phrase that I loved, like ‘Pain turned her dark eyes to ebony’, ‘Two spots of angry color bloomed in her cheeks, and her eyes sparked like sun off brown bottle glass’, but if the reference was ho-hum, I searched for a new sense or emotion to employ.

When applying the scalpel to the eyes (ouch!), one way to determine how many to cut is if you have three or more references to sight (see key words above) per page, or a cluster of repeated words bunched together, then you might want to consider rephrasing some of them.

Set aside a few hours, or maybe day or two to go through your manuscript searching for these words. It’s best to find and highlight them all, then view the pages in thumbnail size so you can see big chunks of where these words appear.

Can I see a show of hands? Are these words ones you struggle with, too? Give us a line or two from your current wip, and we’ll see if we can figure out how to reword it to use a different sense or action.

108 comments:

Helen Gray said...

Amusing, but so true. :)

I'm sure we all have done a little to much eyeing, ogling, etc. at times.

Thanks for sharing.

Coffee's on.

Marilyn Baxter said...

Okay, I'll play.

“Tess,” he began, scrambling for something to say and trying not to stare at her abdomen, which was prominent beneath the form-fitting top she wore. “How’ve you been?”

Tess glanced downward, then leveled her gaze at him. “Guess.” Her tone dripped with sarcasm. “Much as I’d love to stay and chat with you, I really need to get home and assemble a chest of drawers.”

And that good news I mentioned a few days ago?

I SOLD A NOVEL!

No release date yet. I'm still floating. My previous releases were a short story and a novella, nothing to sneeze at. But this is a 62K book -- one that's been rejected by another publisher and judged horribly in a contest. But my editor likes it. She really, really likes it. :-)

I'll take a cup of that coffee. Thanks, Helen, for starting the pot.

Melissa Jagears said...

yep, I always have a lot of eyes and looking to eliminate but I can't be changing them out for blushing and growing pale like one of your examples, this book has a ton of that!!! But instead of changing it, I just decided to have the character make fun of it. Should work for this book, can't have it in the next I'm sure! :)

Melissa Jagears said...

Congrats, Marilyn!!!!!!

Jan Drexler said...

Congratulations, Marilyn! Woo hoo!

Jan Drexler said...

I'm with you on the eye thing, Pam. My characters are constantly glancing and gazing and looking...

Thanks for the tips!

Marianne Barkman said...

Wow, Marilyn ... Waiting for release date. As a reader, it depends on how hooked I am on the story and to what words I notice. Thanks, Pam

Connie Queen said...

Congratulations Marilyn!!!!!

Connie Queen said...

I struggle w/this too.
I went back and searched some of these words and found that I tend to connect certain words w/the same action.

My characters glance over their shoulders...(Not look over their shoulder)

look down or up

their gazes meet or linger.

Does this make sense?
And I rarely use glimpse or peek.


Vince said...

Hi Pam:

I like all your examples. I would expand this approach when five sensing my advertising copy. I would not look for another visual word but rather try to use all five senses to see which worked best. And words can be changed within each sense.

Visual:

Samuel glanced at her. “Don’t even think about it.”

Tactical:

Samuel took a step toward her. “Don’t even think about it.”

Hearing:

Samuel could hear her breathing increase. “Don’t even think about it.”

Smell:

Samuel could smell her fear. “Don’t even think about it.”

Taste:

Samuel could taste his revenge. “Don’t even think about it.”

A writer could even flavor a character by giving him or her a preference for words of a given sense.

Looking forward to you novella. Is it also a western?

Kav said...

Aaaaaagggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!! One thing more to check on!!!! Kav runs off, glancing furtively right and left as she reaches for her ms, afraid to glance at the pages because one look is going to tell her what she already knows but no amount of gazing into space is going to fix the problem so with an eye for detail she gets down to work.

Kav said...

Oh...rushing back to shout Congrats Marilyn. Awesome news!

Jackie said...

I spent about ten minutes going over my WIP and so far I'm not in much danger.
My heroine is a baker though, so I may need to cut back on eating scenes.
My weakness is using the sense of smell. I have so many allergy problems that I can't describe smell well. I usually Google something to see how to describe its smell.
Thanks for sharing. Tonight I'll "look" at my story some more.

Marilyn, CONGRATULATIONS!!! I'm so happy for you!

Dora Hiers said...

Oh yeah. I'm totally an "eye" person, too. Thanks for the tips, Pam. I'm going to read my current ms with a fresh set of "eyes." ha! Loved this post.

Glynna Kaye said...

EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, PAM! I always struggle trying to thin out the "eye thing," too. THANK YOU for the great examples!

Janet Dean said...

Pam, I'm guilty as charged. I overuse gazes and glances and descriptions of eyes in my books. Loved your examples!

So how do you turn a mss into thumbnail size?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Wahoo, Marilyn!!! Congratulations on your sale!! And thanks for the encouraging reminder for those waiting to sell that all they need is one editor to love their work.

Janet

Mary Hicks said...

Thanks, Pam! I agree, the eyes have it. It's so easy and quick to write gazed, glanced and peered... I do them all.

But from now on I'll be aware each time I write one of those 'eye' words. :-))

Wonderful information!

Jennifer Smith said...

Oh my goodness, thank you for this post! I've noticed in my own writing how bad I struggle with this very thing. This will give me something to reference when I'm trying to come up with alternates to using eyes. :)

kaybee said...

Oh, Marilyn, way to go -- especially with the "judged horribly in a contest." Did you rewrite it after the contest score? Or did you sell the version the judge didn't like? Either way, good for you.
Kathy Bailey

Pam Hillman said...

Good morning everyone!! Staggering to Helen's coffee pot.

This is the first day in over a week that I haven't had to go somewhere.

Ah, home sweet home!

Marilyn!!!! Congratulations on selling a novel!!! Whoot!

kaybee said...

Good Morning Pam,
Ew. And Ouch. And Yikes. On the very FIRST page of the manuscript I'm shopping around, that I also entered in two contests last week, it reads "she dragged her gaze up to meet his." And on the THIRD page, she feels his gaze on her as she walks in front of him. I'm not on a roll, I'm on a downward spiral.
Good examples on how to fix this.
Kathy Bailey

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I am so guilty of this!!!!

MUST GO SMACK MYSELF AND TAPE THIS TO THE WALL....

Sigh.

Pam Hillman said...

Marilyn's Before:

“Tess,” he began, scrambling for something to say and trying not to stare at her abdomen, which was prominent beneath the form-fitting top she wore. “How’ve you been?”

Tess glanced downward, then leveled her gaze at him. “Guess.” Her tone dripped with sarcasm. “Much as I’d love to stay and chat with you, I really need to get home and assemble a chest of drawers.”

After

Tess smoothed her hand over her rounded abdomen, then tugged at the hem of her top. “Guess.” Her tone dripped with sarcasm. “Much as I’d love to stay and chat with you, I really need to get home and assemble a chest of drawers.”

OR JUST: Tess smoothed her hand over her rounded abdomen.

How: Marilyn, I loved Tess's reaction, especially the sarcasm. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

MARILYN!!!!

Hoot!!!! Hooooot!!!!!! Hoooooottt!!!!!!!!

Go you, tell us more!!!!!

Happy dancing in the very green north place I call "Upstate"!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jagears.... GREAT IDEA.

(Marks it down to steal/appropriate/nip whatever it is that Congress does so very well!!!!)

LOVE IT!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Great reminder, Pam, to search for all these words, since I tend to overuse them too!!! About to get started on editing my book that's due in 2 1/2 weeks!!! Yikes.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

We made cake balls... I've got them over at Cake Balls by Ruthy on Yankee Belle Cafe so you can help yourself, there's chocolate and yellow cake, and of course, dipped in Ghirardelli chocolate.

Now, back to eyes...

Pam, these are great ideas for defusing the sight issue and replacing it with emotion.

And sometimes I turn the tables by not being able to see the face...

And that helps describe emotion from a different vantage point, a point of inference rather than sight.

Great post.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

We made cake balls... I've got them over at Cake Balls by Ruthy on Yankee Belle Cafe so you can help yourself, there's chocolate and yellow cake, and of course, dipped in Ghirardelli chocolate.

Now, back to eyes...

Pam, these are great ideas for defusing the sight issue and replacing it with emotion.

And sometimes I turn the tables by not being able to see the face...

And that helps describe emotion from a different vantage point, a point of inference rather than sight.

Great post.

Janet Dean said...

Wow, Melanie, the end is in sight. Pulling for your strong finish!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hmm, Ruthy! I love cake balls. Heading to the Yankee Belle cafe.

Janet

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, bad Ruthy and BAD LINK!!!!!

Cake Balls by Ruthy for EVERYONE HERE!!!

That's the cake ball link, I forgot the http:// the first time, I need more coffee... Thank God for Helen!!!

Pam Hillman said...

Melissa, striking that balance is tough, isn't it? When in doubt, I obey my editors! :)

Helen Gray said...

YAAAAAAAY, Marilyn!

Pam Hillman said...

Connie, glanced over, looked back, etc. are huge ones for me.

And, weird as it may sound, I've found that it's harder to eliminate these words if it's the POV character doing it, than if it's through the POV character's lens.

Does that make sense?


POV character: Connie glanced over her shoulder, searching the crowd. Her gaze collided with the menacing gaze of a dark-eyed stranger.

Since Connie is the pov character, somehow I just can't get around the fact that I need Connie to glance over her shoulder, or look around because she feels anxious.

But I could describe something else about the stranger and that would help break up my obsession with eyes....

Her stomach lurched when she spotted a man in a tattered gray suit shuffling toward her. The same man who'd pulled the knife on her yesterday.

Pam Hillman said...

Vince, these are great examples, and a great way to practice using the other senses. Love it!

The novella, The Evergreen Bride isn't a Western. Set in the late 1880s, it's about a young woman in the evergreen state of Mississippi who longs for a white Christmas. It touches on the logging industry of the time period.

My next novella, This Land is Our Land is set in Nebraska during the homestead acts. :)

Pam Hillman said...

Kav, rolling my eyes here! lol

Also, I should say that this search and destroy should only be employed when it's obvious that a scene or chapter is just PEPPERED with references to sight. Don't panic over this.

Just write your story and save this kind of thing for edits. :)

Pam Hillman said...

Jackie, we might need some of your examples of smells to help get rid of so many eye references!

Dora, Glynna, glad I could help. I'm in the middle of editing The Evergreen Bride for this very thing right now, so the post was timely for me as well.

DebH said...

the eyes have it.

i love 'em.

that's why this post is VERY helpful.

my crit partner noticed my characters snort a bit to much. i need to find better reaction verbs apparently. *sigh*

Marilyn
YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!
congrats on the sale. whoot! whoot! who cares what the contest judge thinks if the EDITOR loves it?
*snoopy dancing in celebration for you*

Pam Hillman said...

Janet, when I say thumbnail, I'm referring to the view size in Word. 100%, 75%, 50%, etc.

Depending on the size of your screen, if you want to see the entire page of a ms, you can decrease the size.

On my screen, I can see a page with it set to 75%. I just looked at one page and with these words highlighted, I have 5 "eyes" and 3 "gazes" all clustered on a page, so will have to work on that scene to eliminate some.

Pam Hillman said...

Yay, Mary H!!! :)

And, Jennifer, again, I don't worry about this at ALL until I have the story done. Then I start searching for them. Hopefully, I remember to do it BEFORE I turn it in to my editor. Ahem.

Ideally, I find and highlight each reference in different colors, that way I can work on the clusters of overused words first.

Because at some point, I'll be out of ideas... or out of time.

And... don't get me wrong... I'm not the "eye" police. :) I LOVE using these words, and that's the problem. Apparently, I love using them so much that my editors notice. If my editors notice, then my readers might notice. And we don't want the reader to notice the overuse of any particular word or words.

Pam Hillman said...

Ruthy said: And sometimes I turn the tables by not being able to see the face...

Oh, I like this, Ruthy. I'll have to use this strategy. Something like....

Samuel's rigid back told her all she needed to know.

Okay, now to remember this technique!

In my search and destroy, I try to relax and read the passage, visualizing what they're doing, where they're standing/sitting, what the tone is (argument/love scene, etc.), then try to infuse the scene with something other than another eye reference. Like having Annabelle swivel on the stool.

Meghan Carver said...

Pam, you are brilliant! Thank you for sharing your wisdom here. My KV ms is already turned in, but now I may have to go back and see what I did with all the eyes. It's definitely something to think about for the next story. Thumbnail size? Perfect!

Jeanne T said...

Pam, I LOVED this post. And oh, how I need it! I use these "eye-type" words far more often than I should. I've been trying to figure out how to reduce my usage of them, and you've shown me. thank you! I love your ideas for getting around or deleting these words. Thank you for sharing!

Jeanne T said...

MARILYN—CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! That news is definitely worth a happy dance!

Tina Radcliffe said...

GOT ME!!!

Eyes are my number one weasel word issue.

Especially the dreaded: narrowed eyes.

I need to buy prescription sunglasses for all my characters.

Tina Radcliffe said...

CONGRATULATIONS. MARILYN BAXTER!!!


WOOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Pam I so do the same thing. You really nailed it and I love the way you changed your sentences. The changes didn't take away from the meaning at all.

I need to go get busy doing the same thing. I can't gaze, look, glance any more. lol

Marilyn Baxter said...

Kaybee, I sent the same version the contest judge hated. I did revise the manuscript some, but it was to update it. In the original, the characters used flip phones and I changed those to smart phones. There were some other things I can't remember now, but I wanted to bring it more up to date.

And thanks everyone for your support!

Jackie Smith said...

CONGRATS, Marilyn......keep us posted!

Myra Johnson said...

Wow, I needed this post, Pam! I'm always looking for alternatives to the "look" words! Bad enough trying not to reference eyes so much, but on top of that, I have to work at avoiding floating body parts, as in, "Her eyes fell."

Great suggestions and super examples! Thanks!

Myra Johnson said...

MARILYN!!! You go, girl! Congratulations!

I hear you about updating technology when revising an older manuscript. It's changing from year to year!

Marilyn Baxter said...

Thanks, Pam, for that fix.

And for Ruthie -- This book took me 5 years to write. I played at writing until 2008 and I wrote the majority of it for NaNoWriMo that year. Three weeks later, my marriage began to crumble. But in January or February 2009, Harlequin had an online pitch contest for one of their lines and I finished the manuscript and entered. I finaled, pitched, got a request for the full manuscript and got a rejection letter several months later. I was able to submit this book to my current editor as part of the novella contest I finaled in last summer.

For NaNo 2 years later I began the manuscript my "eyes" lines are from. Tess is a secondary character in the book that just sold. It's still unfinished, though, because I realized I'd written a book that didn't fit most traditional publishers' neat little boxes. But now I write for Boroughs Publishing, and their boxes are in all different shapes and sizes. So I'm going to pitch this to my editor after we get the current one under control and see if she's interested before I try to finish it.

So overall, it took about 9 or 10 years from concept to sale. As Janet said, it was a matter of waiting for the right editor to love the book, and mine said the story really struck a chord with her.

Elaine Manders said...

You hit me between the eyes. I had 105 gazes in my ms. One sample.

She rose and lifted one brow in a quizzical gaze.

She rose and lifted one brow in a question.

Yay Marilyn. Congratulations.

Vince said...

Hi Pam:

Good news about your novellas. A novella gives you an HEA by traveling only a third of the way. My wife’s favorite author, J.A. Jance, has just come out with two novellas and she is having to explain to her fans of decades just what they are! Novellas were made for ‘displaced’ reading on all types of devices while waiting to do something else. Novellas go to the top of my TBR list. I’ll be looking for them.

Missy Tippens said...

Oh my goodness, YES! I have the same problem in most of my books! Although I did have one book my critique group dubbed the "hand book" because the characters were always noticing hands, touching hands and touching arms. LOL

These are great suggestions, Pam!

Pam Hillman said...

DebH, don't snort! lol

This reminds me of something hilarious:

When my mother-in-law was a youngster, she went to her uncle's church for a Christmas play. This church was very small and either one of the "actors" didn't show up for their part, or her uncle decided that my MIL just needed a part in the play. And since she was used to acting at her own church, she dove right in.

Her uncle was playing the King. 60 years later, nobody remembers what the play was about, but being a Christmas play, the King was probably Herod and he was blustering about trying to find baby Jesus.

My MIL didn't have any lines, so when the King stomped and snorted all over the stage, she said, "Oh King, oh King, don't snort!"

So, when anybody "snorts" around here, that's the line they hear from us! lol

Pam Hillman said...

Meghan, if you've turned in your ms, then don't worry about this at ALL, unless your editor comes back and says to cut some of them. Then you'll be ready to jump on this and make her happy.

If my editor is happy, then I'm happy! :)

Pam Hillman said...

Jeanne T: Yes, when in doubt, DELETE! lol

Tina: I haven't searched for "narrowed eyes". Yikes, I'm afraid to!

Myra: Floating body parts like "Her eyes fell" or "Her gaze fell". Personally, these things have never bothered me as a reader. Can't a character's gaze fall, as opposed to her eyes? I'm never sure what's a FBP and what's not.

Maybe floating body parts is something I'll master someday. But I'll wait until my editor dings me for it, then I'll try to weasel my way out of that problem.

Pam Hillman said...

Elaine's before: She rose and lifted one brow in a quizzical gaze.

Elaine's after: She rose and lifted one brow in a question.

Good fix, Elaine! You got rid of the word gaze and I can see the questioning expression on her face.

More examples...

She rose, a questioning expression on her face.

She rose, her brows drawn together, lips pursed as she pondered his words. "I'm sorry, say again?"

Donna said...

I guess the eyes are pretty much every ones 'go to' for showing emotion. I sure needed the reminder to pull back and be more original! Thanks!

Donna said...

I'm so HAPPY for you Marilyn!!

Natalie Monk said...

Me, too, Pam!!! I have trouble with eyes and gazes.

I've got my printed ms before me, and just ran across:

He stared at the back of her braid as comprehension dawned. She really didn't know she said things out loud, did she?

Ugh. It's telling and has "stared."

What a great post! I think a lot of people struggle with this. And thank you for showing examples!!

Peggy Trotter said...

Yes, I too, an an eye person. I must know where the eyes are. I am constantly being 'caught' by my crit partners to eliminate many of them. I personally, however, and secretly, love to read a book with lots of eye/gaze/glance/ogle/peek refernces. Shhhh. Don't tell.

Natalie Monk said...

Congrats, Marilyn!!!! Woot woot!!!

Christina said...

Another great post that I'll be turning to again and again. Thanks for some helpful tips, Pam!

Pam Hillman said...

Natalie before: He stared at the back of her braid as comprehension dawned. She really didn't know she said things out loud, did she?


There's nothing wrong with this, Natalie, but since the exercise is to see if we can get rid of the sense of sight, I'll take a stab at it. I'm not sure where they are or what they're doing, so I'm just winging it, but here you go. I'll just describe what he SEES without actually using any of the words we've been talking about...

After: She kept talking, her hands busy as she chopped carrots for the soup. Her braid hung down her back, the long dark strands catching, reflecting in the lamplight. His fingers itched to jerk the ribbon tied at the ends, just to see how she'd react.

With an effort, he forced his thoughts back to the conversation at hand.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Pam,

I chuckled all the way through this post! I am SO guilty of this. So now I go through my ms when editing and check for all the 'eyes' and 'looks' and 'glances', etc.

MARILYN, congratulations! So happy for you! Can you tell us who the publisher is?

Cheers,
Sue

Pam Hillman said...

Peggy, me too! This will be our little secret! :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Marilyn, I love getting the "Paul Harvey" rest of the story!!! Good for you!!!!

I think we all have some outside the box manuscripts floating around.... when I decided to indie publish some of mine, it was a leap of faith in myself, in the timing and in the belief that those words would help others in some way, shape or form...

The written word is such a powerful tool for good...

and evil.


Thomas Paynes "Common Sense" spurred a revolt that freed a people and built a new nation, under God...

Hitler's "Mein Kampf" spurred a revolt that thirsted for world domination and ultimately killed millions.

The human spirit is so fragile and sometimes sheeplike, but I don't believe that's what God wants for his people....

Not to be sheep, but to feed the sheep and the lambs and raise expectations of goodness.

Whenever I write or read a book, I bear in mind that powerful thrust of the written word on the human heart and psyche, depending on where that psyche is at the moment.

Writers can never be too careful.

Janet Dean said...

Thanks. Pam, for clarifying. I do know how to diminish the page size! LOL Thanks for the great idea.

Janet

Courtney Phillips said...

Yes, I must admit I am an eye person. Personally, I don't think I notice when a writer uses eye words "too" much because I like knowing what the eyes are doing. Haha!
But I do understand that variety is key! Writing is all about learning and improving.
Great post, Pam. Very useful!

Pam Hillman said...

Whoot! Editing as we chat about this very thing. Two instances of "glance" very close together.

FIRST INSTANCE: He chanced a glance at her, walking two steps ahead and to his right.

SECOND: He held the door open as he’d done more times than he could count, but this time her gaze ricocheted off his...

Swapped out ricocheted for glanced.

Another one bites the dust! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Marilyn!!! CONGRATULATIONS!! I'm thrilled for you!

Debby Giusti said...

Your blog hit like a ton of bricks, Pam.

Raising my hand and lowering my eyes in shame. I overuse all the sight words you noted. Never gave it a thought.

But I will now.

Debby Giusti said...

Congrats to Marilyn!!!

YAY!!! Fantastic!!!

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

What a great thing to have a blog post on, Pam! I try not to use the same word within several paragraphs, but I never really thought about the synonyms that could be used for all the same "eye" actions!

I don't have my MS with me at work here, but last night I wrote a section where the heroine's boyfriend catches her talking to a new male acquaintance. Boyfriend is instantly jealous and gives the male friend a LOOK that speaks volumes (i.e. the "this is MY girl, buddy" LOOK). I had initially wrote the two having a stare down, but then changed it to the male friend tipping an imaginary hat at Jealous Boyfriend and literally and metaphorically backing off. Not only is it more in character with the character (he's very easy going, and *spoiler* he's really the guy the heroine should be with instead of Jealous Boyfriend) but it avoided an awkward paragraph full of synonyms for glare, stare, look, etc., that you described in your blog.

I'll have to take a look at the rest of the chapters I have written tonight. Thanks and have a great day!

MARILYN, congrats!

Mary Connealy said...

I fight this repetitive stuff too, Pam.

Squared shoulders
Shrugging
Gaze/look/glance on and on.

MUST FIGHT IT!!!!

Sherida Stewart said...

Yes, Pam! My hand is up because of all the gazing and glancing I SEE in my WIP. :(

Here is my current project in need of help:

"Turning the corner, he SAW his sister's gallery. The colorful pots that usually welcomed shoppers were not there. Dry leaves and trash littered the sidewalk. Not the way Hannah had cared for her shop. PEERING through the dirt-streaked front window, he SAW the haphazard displays of fabrics and crafts."

I need to give a sense of despair and guilt to what he sees.

Your post is a KEEPER! Thank you for the help!!!

Sherida Stewart said...

MARILYN! Congratulations!!! Let's have virtual high tea in celebration! Cheering for you!!!

Mary Hicks said...

Pam, I just fixed a sentence.

Before:
"Jackson, we need to talk. What was this doing on display?"

"What was what doing on—?" Jackson turned. His gaze dropped to the small painting in Matt's hand.

After:
"Jackson, we need to talk. What was this doing on display?"

"What was what doing on—?" Jackson turned. His jaw tightened at the small painting in Matt's hand.

So much better—thanks again! :-)

Chill N said...

Pam, are you looking over my shoulder? :-) This is absolutely unbelievably stupendously timely!

Back to read comments later. Just had to tell you how great this post is.

Nancy C

Sherida Stewart said...

My edited version:

Turning the corner, Ben Abeya froze as his sister's gallery came into view. The colorful pots that usually welcomed shoppers were not there. Dry leaves and scraps of litter skittered along the sidewalk. Peering through the dirt-streaked windows, the displays of artists' craft works were haphazardly strewn across the tables. No, this was not how Hannah had cared for her shop.

Thanks for this post and for describing your thought process as you edited your passages. Great help!

Pam Hillman said...

Sherida, I took liberties (ie...I MADE STUFF UP!!!) since I don't know what happened to his sister...if she still has the shop and is incapacitated, or if she's deceased, or gone, or what.

Anyway, again this is just a stab in the dark, painting the scene without using any of our weasel words:

Turning the corner, he faced his sister’s gallery on the opposite side of the street. He came to a complete stop, too stunned to take another step. Dry leaves and trash from an overturned garbage can littered the sidewalk. The wind kicked up an empty fast-food wrapper and tossed it in the air before slamming it to the curb where it lay there, limb and used up, no good to anyone anymore.

He shuffled toward the grime-streaked front window and wiped at the film of dust and dirt. The haphazard displays of fabrics and crafts didn’t even begin to resemble the way Hannah had cared for her shop. The toe of his boot snagged on a pot and he looked down. The wilted stems of long dead flowers mocked him.

He swiped a hand down his jaw, knowing his own neglect had caused this, caused Hannah to give up on her dream.

What had he done?

Pam Hillman said...

See, there you go, Sherida. The more you play with it, the more you paint the picture with the different senses.

You could even mention the stench of rotting garbage depending on how BAD you want this area to be. :)

Pam Hillman said...

Yay, Mary H! :)

Pam Hillman said...

Thanks Nancy! :)

Sherida Stewart said...

Thank you, Pam. Love the way you grasped what I wanted to convey, I need to learn to expand my descriptions, especially in an important scene. Very valuable exercise! I appreciate your help!

Lyndee H said...

Yay for you, Marilyn!

Interesting post, Pam. As I read it, the word that played in my mind was 'details.' Now we are getting into the meat of construction.

All of my manuscripts have overused words that seem to have a life of their own. That's why when I edit I use a cheat sheet to scan the work for those words that repeat. Guess I'm adding eyes to that list! Thanks for the tip!

Pam Hillman said...

Herida and Lyndee, I think you've both hit the nail on the head. Sometimes when we rewrite these passages, we paint a bigger picture, but it's more vivid.

Sometimes we cut.

For instance, in my edits today, I had used a variation of a memorable phrase eight times! And of course it jumped out at the editor.

I went through the ms and completely deleted some of them, reworded some, and left two of these phrases in scenes where I thought the had the most impact.

But eight times? That was just way too much!

Preslaysa Williams said...

I love this. What an informative post. I usually have a lot of "looked" "gazed" etc. I'm now reading through my rough draft and reading those lines bores me, lol.

Terri said...

Way to go Marilyn!

Terri said...

Pam, as soon as I GLANCED at what this post was about I knew I had to read it. Couldn't tear my EYES away. In the book I just finished I found myself using gazed and glanced over and over. Thanks for all the tricks on getting rid of the repetitive words.

Debra E. Marvin said...

Omigosh. This was so helpful. It's like being in a rut and getting a hand up and out. I can work and work on descriptions and body language but I always feel like I have too many uses of glance, gaze, look.

Thanks so much Pam!

Chill N said...

Way to go, Marilyn! And cheers to your editor, too :-)

Nancy C

Pam Hillman said...

Preslaysa, Terri, and Debra, I'm so glad we see eye-to-eye on these things! Ha!

Audra Harders said...

I'm an eye person, too. "Gaze" is my favorite word with "glance" coming in a close second. I related to every word in this post, Pam.

Why do we tend to forget the other senses? You offered some great examples of revisions removing the "eye" reference. Good job!!

181 times! I better do a search for gaze and see what my current novella turns up, LOL!

Great, great post, Pammy!!

Audra Harders said...

YAYAYAY, Marilyn! Sorry I couldn't make it any earlier today to help you celebrate. WooHoo! Such wonderful news invites cheers anytime, right??

Pam Hillman said...

Audra, it's a little scary when we actually start searching for these words.

Brace yourself!

Natalie Monk said...

Oh, Pam, you've set my mind at ease!!! :)

Love what you've done to those sentences!!! Jerking her ribbon. I smiled so hard at that. :)

Pam Hillman said...

You're welcome, Natalie! And today's exercise reminded me that the more we practice this, the easier it gets.

Keep practicing.

Julie Lessman said...

PAMMY!!! I am SO UPSET because I left a L-O-N-G post yesterday morning and it's NOT HERE!!

Sigh.

What I said was that I am SO bad with eyes and eyebrows, mostly because they are both so expressive and they really get emotions across. What shocks me is that my copy editors have NEVER called me on my excessive use of eyes or brows, which they should have because I am BAD!!

Your examples were EXCELLENT, Pam, and you taught me a lot with this blog.

Hugs,
Julie

Edwina said...

Thanks for such a great post - I learned so much!

Kelly Goshorn said...

Thanks Pam for the great advice. It honestly blessed this newbie writer to hear that you still have areas of your writing the editors might "zap"! This was great advice. I've noticed in my own writing that I have "go to" phrases and with a little extra thought I can be a bit more creative! Blessings, Kelly
BTW - received Claiming Mariah and started it immediately! I'm enjoying your story already!

Mark Abel said...

Hi Pam,

Great post, thanks. You have opened my eyes, (woops), my mouth wide to a weakness in my writing style. Working on my first novel and realize I'm guilty in the area of using eyes when trying to 'show' instead of 'tell' the reader what's going on.

Moving forward, (and when I get to the edit), will be looking at other ways to show the reader what's going on.

Thanks so much for the good advice, Mark


Pam Hillman said...

Julie, but you write with such passion that you HAVE to use lots of glances, looks, eyes, and glares!!!

And you mix it up so that it's not the exact same thing.

No need to change a thing. I'll repeat: if my editor's happy, I'm happy! :)

Pam Hillman said...

Kelly, so glad you received Claiming Mariah! :) And, yep, I get zapped all the time.

After I turned in my edits on The Evergreen Bride last week, I started back to work on This Land is Our Land and guess what?

The same phrased I'd used like 8 times in Bride was in Land. Eeek!!! But at least I cut that sucker off at the pass before my editor got ahold of it! :)

Pam Hillman said...

Edwina and Mark, so glad you guys stopped by. We never stop learning, do we?