Decoding Filler Words
***NOTE: This applies to the narrative outside of dialogue.***
What are (extra) filler words in creative writing?
The way I see it, they are, vague, implied, or directional (staging) words. They don’t add meaning to the sentence. Words we may use while speaking (conversationally, like my posts), and sound normal to our ear, but in creative writing—slow pace, and bog action—with too many words. A few examples, and a cool RA Graphic to pin for quick glances.
Staging fillers are the easy ones so we’ll start there – stage directions are micromanaging your character’s actions. Up, down, left, right, back and forth, side to side.
She stood up. – Well of course “up” it’s implied, with stood.
He fell down. – Only one way to fall, unless someone trips up the stairs (I’ve done it.), the direction of fall is down, and the word “down” redundant.
He paced back and forth. – Um that’s what paced means. A show and tell situation where the telling (back and forth) are extra words.
Her hips swayed side to side. – Well duh! We don’t sway up and down, but if we did, then maybe you can mention the direction.
Adverbs as filler words. I’ve Decoded Adverbs here – check it out.
Vague words like would, could, maybe, stuff, things—don’t help a reader visualize or empathize. Specific words with distinct meanings.
He would tell the stories to John before bed. – word choice here feels passive.
He told John bedtime stories. – Active and specific
Things went horribly wrong. – Telling and vague – no imagery.
The water heater flooded the garage. I slipped, grabbed the drying pants, in vain attempt—but fell and bruised my tailbone. – Yeah, it’s a little wordy but there’s no doubt what went wrong… And if you didn’t guess, true story. LOL
I threw her stuff away. – Okay
I threw her writing journals in the fire. – Oh, you’ve gone and done it now!
Implied words aren’t specific words per say — they are implied. Let’s just have an example, shall we? She asked.
Ha! Did I fool you? ^^ is a simple example.
‘Let’s just have’ AND ‘shall we?’ have similar meanings. Choose one, the other is redundant.
‘She asked’ is implied with the question mark.
How do you get rid of filler words? Identify, search, and replace with meaningful words, or delete. Here’s a list of my top 30 Search and Destroy Filler Words.
Note: not all filler words are bad, and sometimes will sound better to the reader. So the old saying, understand a rule before breaking it, is the point, and overuse the problem.
My advice is always—balance…