Lesson 6

Lesson 6

A Lesson by Tantra Bensko

Use unique specific words rather than generalizing.


One of the most common signs of a writer who needs more education and improvement on her work is using a lot of vague terminology. Saying someone is dejected, or upset, or that a place is pretty or an action is nice or bad may be the first thing that comes to your mind, but should always be edited out by the time you're done. Usually, switching it out for an unusual analogy or metaphor, an image, a funny way of putting it, an expression, gesture, or action by a character that shows rather than tells how she is feeling works much better.

Vague generalities are fine for writing for yourself, and for lyrics, for some spoken word poetry, but if your goal is fiction publication in magazines with high reputation among professional writers, for example, avoid telling the reader things about your own life and feelings too straightforwardly. That's more for essays, but not for fiction. Fiction shows things so the reader can deduce herself, come up with conclusions based on seeing how characters behave, rather than being told how they feel.

Go over anything you've written or do another story and focus on making every word choice fresh, exciting, unique, colorful, concrete, so the reader never has to go through dull phases reading along and coming across cliches, over-used phrases, dull ways of putting things.

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Added on March 19, 2013
Last Updated on March 19, 2013

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Tantra Bensko
Tantra Bensko

Berkeley, CA

I teach fiction writing through UCLA Ex. Writing Program, and my own academy online where I focus on Experimental Writing, which I also teach through Writers College when I have time. I have nearly 20..