Rearranging The Furniture: How To Rearrange Words To Give Them Punch

Every time I decide to rearrange furniture my hubby gets a skeptical look on his face. Perhaps this is because I can’t really visualize anything, so I go on the trial and error method.

I am so thankful to the people who invented sliders. Now, I get to rearrange furniture with or without hubby. He personally prefers without.

Rearranging furniture can give new life to a tired room, or create a sense of space that didn’t previously exist.

Did you know that rearranging words in your manuscript is a lot like rearranging furniture? I didn’t. Not until my critique partner, Lisa Jordan showed me.

Maybe you’re a rocket scientist and already figured this out long ago, but chances are there are a few tricks you may not have considered.

Tips For Rearranging Words To Add Punch:

*Variate Sentence Length. If your sentences always follow the same beat or rhythm, it might lull your reader to sleep. When you edit scenes, make sure to check for this variation.

*Avoid The Suspense Writer’s Trap. When I first started writing suspense, I loved sentences that were fragments, but I used them so much that it made the flow too choppy. Instead, try adding commas in some of them instead of periods. Leave the fragments for the time when it is really important.

*The One Word Sentence. When you have a surprise, use a one word sentence to create a greater impact.

*A Stand Alone Phrase. If a phrase or one word sentence is powerful, have it stand alone in it’s own line. Use this sparingly, but when used it draws more attention to the thought.

*Drop the -ly words. A large majority of the time -ly words are less active and should be avoided.

*Drop the emotional phrases that follow an action. If you write, “She shook with rage,” it is better to drop the with rage and show it in the physical actions and thoughts.

*Drop the descriptive speaker attributes most of the time. Once in a rare while you might need to say whispered or shouted, but otherwise you use he said, she said, etc. Sometimes it is helpful to avoid speaker attributes altogether. Brandilyn Collins often says she has only one per book. She uses action beats to show who is speaking.

*Avoid telling words the majority of the time. This one is tough, but one example is when you say that your character looked, gazed, spied, surveyed, most of these come before what they saw. In deep POV you just show what they saw.

For example:  Tammy surveyed the horizon with it’s red ball sun dipping low in the sky.

Revise:  The r sun dipped low on the horizon.

*Pick the most powerful adjective and stick with one. When use more than one adjective in front of a word to describe something it waters down the impact. Pick your most powerful one and eliminate the others.

*Stay in one character’s point of view per scene. It can be very distracting to readers to hop in and out of character’s heads. Stick with one character per scene.

*Replace passive verbs with powerful ones.  

For Example:  Larry was running after the ball as if his life depended on it.

Larry chased after the ball like a predator chases its prey.

*Add visual imagery and senses to bring your words to life. As you can see in the example above, I changed the last part of the sentence as well, to paint a more vivid picture. Each scene should use several of the senses to make your reader experience it as if they were there themselves.

Rearranging words to command a reader’s attention is a great writer’s strategy. What are some word arrangement tips that you have found helpful?

About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

4 thoughts on “Rearranging The Furniture: How To Rearrange Words To Give Them Punch

  1. Great suggestions, Michelle. Combing my contest entry now for -ly words and passive verbs.

  2. Julia says:

    All good tips to remember. Thanks Michelle.

  3. Michelle Lim says:

    Glad to see you stop by, so glad the post was helpful!

  4. […] *Strengthen Verb Choices. Read through and eliminate weak verb choices like passive verbs or helping verbs. […]

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