Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Something... Is it one of your pet peeves?

I was just writing an article about 'polishing your manuscript' for Fantasy Faction and realised once I posted it away that I hadn't included 'SOMETHING' in my list of words to avoid.
Is it on your list too?
Back in the day,  before my eyes were opened by a note in a critique, I thought there was nothing wrong with something.
Now though, the sight of 'something' in a manuscript makes me a little judgmental. Is the author being lazy, are they keeping something from their readers, or do they really think that a vague reference is enough to keep a reader interested?
Consider if you will,
'Something made him turn...'
REALLY? What? Why isn't the author sharing their information with us? Don't they think we care? What made him turn?
Was it;
"The hint of her perfume made him turn.."
Isn't that more interesting?
"The sound of the safety switch being released on a gun, made him turn...'
You get the drift.
I could go on... have you come across 'something' that made you wonder too?
So, there might be a good reason for using 'something' sometime, but personally I think it is worth considering as one of those pesky words to be avoided. Don't you reckon?


  1. Yes, I have words to search for as well, but not that one. Was, were, be, been are favourites - not because they are bad but because they might point to a phrase that could have been worded better. I also check seemed and felt to see if i can be more positive.

    Thinking about your 'something made him turn', there are times when we sense something, some one looking at us perhaps, that is not quite logical.

  2. True Jacqueline,
    There is actually a long list of words to avoid (included in the article) that include was, were, to be and thought, felt, that, most, just, almost.. there are lots.
    The article even has explanations of 'Why' we don't use them and some alternatives. :)
    'Something' is just one of the more unusual ones that I personally don't use anymore... and find jolts me when am reading.

  3. I think if the answer to 'something' is in the next sentance ie "Something made him turn.At first he couldn't work out what it was, except his senses were on high alert. Then he saw a figure...."

  4. Yes! Even 'an unfamilar noise'; 'instinct'; 'cold air' is better than 'something'.
    My pet peeve is 'went'. To me the word sounds tinny. After checking that I'd reduced all of the common 'problem' words to the best of my ability in my 95,000 word novel I hit the Find tool and typed in 'went' smug in the knowledge there would be none. There were 7. Horrified, I highlighted them and with very little difficulty changed the phrases to create more effective images. Now that novel has no 'went'. There is no excuse, in my opinion, that someone 'went up the stairs' or 'went to answer the phone'. Just saying 'went' aloud grates. There has to be a better way to say 'He went that way' don't you think?

  5. If your 'He went that way' is dialogue, I'd say never mind the rules, just let your character speak as he/she would naturally speak.

    I'm enditing at the moment, and I might just look for wents too.

  6. Dialogue allows more of the 'to be avoided' words, than narrative. That's a good point! I am far more easy going when editing dialogue. Otherwise your character can sound stilted and unreal.

  7. It looks like as a word 'something' unless defined is best avoided. There are other things too, writers have to avoid. I was pounced on by some of my critters [thankgoodness] in my murder mystery, Murder Among the Roses when I didn't describe the poison.

  8. Once I was edited by a herbalist, who asked the same sort of questions. Which herb was used? etc... thankfully she offered her expert knowledge!
    Writing Fantasy, thank goodness, I can create my own magical herbs. My limited knowledge seems less obvious then!
    Another thing to watch for. The list gets longer!