Working with authors is a wonderful thing. You get to be the first to read what has poured from the very depths of someone’s soul before the ink even dries. You get to help them to shape, mend, and bend their characters and stories so that they are even better than they were before. I love that about authors, and I love that about fiction.
One thing, though, that I tend to see often is authors using the same adjectives over and over and over. Granted, I do work mostly with first time authors who are either self-publishing or going through an independent publisher, which means that sometimes their work is less polished than a seasoned writer’s.
One word that I simply cannot stand anymore is “delicious”. As only one editor on a team of three, as much as I protested its overuse, it remained. It was used to describe food—almost every single instance of food in the entire story.
Now, I’m not saying that a word can only be used once, but sometimes description is either unnecessary or laid on too thick. If you are writing a story where much of it takes place around a dinner table or in a kitchen, the descriptions are generally obvious:
She pulled the tray of cookies out of the oven and set it on the stove to cool.
The simplicity of that description is enough to make me smell fresh, hot cookies. I can even see the heat waves rising over the cookie sheet. Because just about everyone has seen something come out of an oven at some point, it does not need supplementary description.
If you find you are using description too often, you can even add it to dialogue if it’s absolutely necessary. This will give your dialogue a bit of pop, and take the description out of the narration.
“Of course!”, she said as she laid the tray of cookies aside to cool.
Descriptive writing is a beautiful thing, when it’s done right. Just be sure to balance its use so that the story doesn’t get lost among too many adjectives.
If you really need to use description, and it’s working well in your story, take a glance at a thesaurus once in a while so that you don’t become repetitive. The sound and taste of the words in your mouth is just as important as how you hear them in your head. Pick words that slip in between others in a subtle way, words that will make the reader feel your point, instead of getting stopped up on a word that has appeared too many times.
There are tons of online resources out there, and my favourite thesaurus site is: http://thesaurus.com/.
What’s your relationship with adjectives like?