When you’re writing, especially if you’re writing flash fiction, or poetry, you need to make sure every word you use has a role, and must be there. There is no commonly held agreement on what flash fiction is, beyond it being very short fiction.
writing tools, so important!
It is usually quoted as being any story having fewer than 1000 words, and can have only 5 words! The most important thing is the story has a beginning, middle and end. When you have so few words, you won’t have room for unneeded words.
Two words that are often used (mis-used) are ‘just’, and ‘very’. I know ‘just’ was one of the words I threw into a sentence, without thinking about whether or not it was needed. Now, if I’m writing something, I will often search my document to make sure I haven’t just slid a ‘just’ into what I’ve just written!
Very is another one. I once wrote a piece about the word very. In the document, I mentioned a child who was very sad. Then I expanded the piece, took out the ‘very’ and showed that sad child, instead of simply telling the reader that the child was sad.
the sad and lonely child
By showing the tears, the hunched shoulders of that child, sitting alone and missing out on the fun, I was able to bring that child right into the readers heart, and made the reader want to help cheer that dear child up again. These things matter – clean up your excess words and use your fullest vocabulary!
Do you have your own bugbear word, one you use more than needed? Using exactly the correct word can help the writer show their readers exactly what they mean. Verbs are one way we can do this. When you use the correct verb, you can clear your writing of the clutter of excess adverbs. To say the criminal bolted is stronger than to say the walked away quickly and without paying attention to where they were going.
the criminal bolted!
At a recent writing group meeting I attended, where these ‘useless words’ were discussed; members further mentioned ‘basically’ and ‘actually’. The meeting ended with members all writing a piece of flash fiction having only 20 words. With a time limit of 15 minutes, members all started, and by the time the buzzer announced time was up, had produced great stories! There were no useless words in their 20 word stories. It was an interesting meeting for sure.
This meeting, where all members strived to meet the time limit, and reach the correct count was a fine way for all members to be involved. There was no ‘correct’ story, all were different, and everyone went home feeling they had achieved something new. This is a good sign of an inspiring and great group.