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Narrative Botox: Filler Words and Phrases to Look Out For
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If you’re planning on publishing traditionally, chances are you keep a sharp eye on your word count. Literary agents and publishing houses are on the hunt for the best quality stories that they can print for the cheapest price (using the least paper and ink), so you have a higher chance of gaining representation if you can crank your novel out in the least words possible.
However, filler words and phrases aren’t only the enemies of aspiring traditional authors; every writer—fanfic, novelist, journalist, you name it!—should try to eliminate filler from their stories to assure more concise and high-quality writing. Oftentimes, filler contributes nothing but clutter, and without it, your narrative can flow smoother and in a more sophisticated manner.
But how do you know what’s filler and what’s not? Here are some tips on how to Ctrl+F and kick this narrative botox to the curb!
I compiled these lists with the help of Infusionmedia, BDR Publishing, and ResetEra !
Filler Words
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1. Just
A writer’s worst enemy, and the bane of my manuscripts’ existences. Eliminating all the ‘just’s can cut down your word count by hundreds.
2. “That” as a conjunction
It’s an unnecessary addition to a sentence, which will be more streamlined without it.
Example: “He said that he wouldn’t do it again.”
Revised: “He said he wouldn’t do it again.”
3. “Now” as an adverb
“Now” is essential if you’re talking about the past and present, but when you’re using it to draw attention to a particular statement or point.
Example: “Now, I didn’t think it’d get so out of hand.”
Revised: “I didn’t think it’d get so out of hand.”
4. Redundant adverbs
These adverbs serve no purpose because the verbs they’re describing already imply the way the action is performed.
Whispering softly
Yelling loudly
Crying sadly
Laughing happily
5. “Telling” words
These words are redundant, especially when using first person, because in describing an event, we can already assume that the characters are experiencing it.
Seeing/saw
Feeling/felt
Hearing/heard
Smelling/smelled
6. “Clarifying” words used to portray definiteness or indefiniteness
Although these are meant to help out the readers get their bearings on a situation, all they do is come across as wishy-washy! Be concise and sure of yourself!
About
Absolutely
Accordingly
Actually
Almost
Basically
Certainly
Clearly
Completely
Entirely
Even
Exactly
Fairly
Highly
Hopefully
Literally
Maybe
Only
Often
Oftentimes
Perhaps
Possibly
Probably
Quite
Rather
Really
Reasonably
Relatively
Seem
Seriously
Simply
Slightly
Some
Somehow
Sometimes
Totally
Very
Filler Phrases
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1.“Let out (vocal noise)”
Use the verb instead!
Example: “He let out a sigh.”
Revised: “He sighed.”
2. Using passive voice
Passive voice inflates your word count by including various “to be” verbs into the prose. Passive voice involves actions happening to a subject rather than the subject performing an action, and as a result isn’t as riveting to the reader as active voice; even if it wasn’t a matter of word count, you’d still want to get rid of it anyway!
Still don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out this article from Grammarly.
Example: “The boy was bitten by the dog on his arm.”
Revised: “The dog bit the boy on his arm.”
3. Describing the wrong noun
Many writers will be as specific as possible about what “thing” is affected by the event they’re describing, when it’s much simpler to take a step back and write about something more general.
Example: “The level of water rose.”
Revised: “The water rose.”
4. Phrasal verbs
Phrasal verbs are the combination of two or three words from different grammatical categories—a verb and an adverb or a preposition—to form a single action. Usually, these phrasal verbs can be replaced by a single-word verb.
“Ask for” can be replaced with “request”
“Bring down” can be replaced with “reduce”
“Come across” can be replaced with “find”
Etc.
5. Clarifying phrases
Same reason as clarifying words. Get to the point!
A bit
A little
A lot
In a sense
Kind of
Sort of
6. Remember your contractions!
Even if your story takes place in olden times, I can guarantee that if you never use any contractions ever, your story’s gonna be a clunky mess. But sometimes you’re in the moment, consumed by the poetic power of the muses, and forget that this isn’t a soap opera; so make sure you check that you’ve been using your contractions!
It is, it was, it would, she is, would not, should not, is not, does not etc.
7. Inflated phrases
These phrases can be replaced with more concise words.
Along the lines of (shorten to: like)
As a matter of fact (in fact)
As to whether (whether)
At all times (always)
At the present (now or currently)
At this point in time (now or currently)
Be able to/would(n’t) be able to (could or couldn’t)
Because of the fact that (because)
By means of (by)
Due to the fact that (because)
Even though (though or although)
For the purpose of (for)
For the reason that (because)
Have the ability to (could)
In light of the fact that (because)
In order to (to)
In regards to (on or about)
In spite of the fact that (though or although)
In the event that (if)
In the nature of (like)
In the neighborhood of (about)
On the occasion of (when)
On one/two separate occasions (Once/twice)
The/A majority of (most)
There is no doubt that (No doubt)
Wasn(n’t) capable of (could or couldn’t)
Hope this helped, and happy writing!
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maxkirin · 5 months ago
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With my book coming out soon, I thought I'd take this as a chance to answer a very tough question:
What's the Best Way to Support an Indie Author? Where should you buy their books? 🤔💵
Big post incoming!
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Before we start talking about the wild, wild world of 👑royalties👑, I want to make this crystal clear:
The best way to support an indie author* is to BUY OUR BOOKS. Straight up. Paying for our hard work is good enough.
You want to support me? Easy. Buy my book.
*Now, let’s say you don’t care where you get the book from or your goal is to make sure most of your hard-earned money actually goes to the indie author rather than some corporation… then, in that case, read on!
So… what the heck are book royalties anyway?
When you purchase an indie eBook the money you spend is split between the author and the retailer. Depending on the split, more or less of your money will actually end up on the hands of the author you’re trying to support.
This differs from traditional publishing, where the author receives a lump sum as an advance from the publisher (which is then split between author and agent).
The publisher then sells this book on other storefronts, which further splits where the money actually goes.
PS: It is not until the book has actually generated as much revenue as the advance that said author begins to *actually* earn royalties on books sold, which may be as little as cents per book to a percentage of each sale.
To further confuse matters, different retailers offer different royalty rates! 😵
Where should you purchase books from if you want to super-duper support an indie author?
Well, let me give you a tier list—beginning from the TOP!
S TIER: Author's Personal Shop
Buying a book directly from an author's shop is by far the best way support 'em. Outside of a small % that goes to cover for credit card fees (~5% in my case), pretty much all of your money goes to the author.
If the author has a shop—buy it from there!!
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A TIER: Itch.io
It's not just for games, you know! Its royalty rate is one of the most generous with a default 90/10. This is crazy-good compared to most other retailers.
Seriously, more authors should start selling their books on Itch.io!!
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B TIER: Most Retailers
Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Google Play Books, and Kobo all offer a 70/30 split. It didn't use to be like this, tho!
If you like to have all of your books on the same platform, buying an indie author’s book through these platforms is honestly A-OK! 👍
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C TIER: Amazon
Amazon has a default 35/65 rate (ouch) and has the option for a 70/30—but it's not easy. The latter option is not available in all territories and has many prerequisites.
Also, one way to get the 70/30 split is to *exclusively* sell your title on Amazon (ooof).
As if Amazon’s system wasn’t already confusing enough—there’s also *delivery fees*. Yes, you read that right. Amazon charges the author for the delivery of the digital item based on the file size, nickle-and-diming you like it's 2004 and you went over your text message limit.
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I don’t want anyone to feel bad for buying books through Amazon. Like I said before, the best way to support us is to buy our books—no matter where you get them.
A sale is better than no sale at all. 🤞
The reason I set out to write this is because the average person has no clue that where you buy a book from actually matters.
You spend your hard-earned money wanting to support an indie author and the bulk of that Hamilton doesn’t even go to them.
And now you know. 🧵🔚
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protectspock · a month ago
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Every so often I remember that Diane Duane and her husband spent their honeymoon co-authoring the star trek novel The Romulan Way. Legends only.
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gffa · 10 months ago
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A Test of Courage | by Justina Ireland Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith #I NEED YOU TO UNDERSTAND THAT STAR WARS GETS EIGHT THOUSAND TIMES FUNNIER #WHEN YOU CONSIDER HOLDING SOMEONE’S LIGHTSABER = HOLDING THEIR UNDERWEAR #THAT ANAKIN IS SORT OF LOSING HIS UNDERWEAR AS HE SPEEDER HOPS ACROSS CORUSCANT #THAT OBI-WAN HAS TO PICK UP ANAKIN’S UNDERWEAR IN MID-AIR AS HE’S FLYING PAST #THAT OBI-WAN TOSSES HIS UNDERWEAR TO ANAKIN AS HE FIGHTS DOOKU #THAT OBI-WAN PICKS UP ANAKIN’S UNDERWEAR SO THAT HE CAN ONE DAY PASS IT ALONG TO LUKE #THERE IS NO WAY IN WHICH THIS IS NOT SO MUCH FUNNIER THAN I COULD POSSIBLY SAY #HELP I’M CRYING
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things that make a monarch powerful and successful besides war?
How to Write a Good Ruler
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There’s more to leading than just winning wars.
Throughout history, many empires were forged with blood by powerful warriors, who pushed their countries’ borders by slaughtering everyone in their paths. However, many of them never lasted very long in the grand scheme of things, because there’s more to running a country than simply having good military power.
This post isn’t about how to write a good ruler character, this post is about the qualities of being a good ruler. Making someone a perfect, immaculate ruler doesn’t necessarily make them a well-written character (and just because a character is a good ruler doesn’t have to mean they’re a good person) so you have to take into consideration basic concepts of character building, which you can find on my FAQ.
Now, I can’t possibly outline every single aspect of a good ruler within a single Tumblr post, so take this list as a kind of bare-bones guideline meant to boost your inspiration and give you a bit of direction.
1. A Good Ruler is Honorable
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If you want your character’s subjects to respect them, then they must be a respectable person.
If your character goes around spending thousands on lavish treasures and banquets while their country starves, then they're probably not gonna have the best Yelp rating from their subjects.
A good ruler is respectful, honest, and treats not only the nobles of under their rule with respect, but also the commoners. They spend tax money on infrastructure, food, and charity. They follow proper etiquette and set an example for those who look up to them. And they spend their time working--hearing petitioners, filing paperwork, holding diplomatic meetings, signing trade agreements, strategizing battles, etc.--rather than making merry.
Benevolent rulers in fiction are often the embodiment of honor and goodwill...which is why they die so frequently within the story--to serve as a symbol of the "death of good" that the villain has brought to the land.
2. A Good Ruler is Just
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One of the main jobs of a ruler is to pass sentences (or in most cases, have their courts pass sentences on their behalf). If your character acts on a “guilty until proven innocent” basis and executes fifty people a week, they’re probably only a ruler because everyone is afraid of them...not because they’re actually a “good ruler.”
They should be open to acts of mercy without teetering into “pushover” territory, and never allow wrongdoing to go unpunished.
This way, with their strong moral compass established, their subjects can all concur that anyone who gets executed under your character’s rule must’ve deserved it due to your character’s just nature.
3. A Good Ruler is Always Looking to Improve
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Despite boing born into a lifestyle where you’re practically revered as godlike, a good ruler doesn’t think they are the end-all-be-all of everything. They often seek counsel from both their advisors and their subjects, and take criticism in stride rather than executing anyone who may dare to defy them.
In fact, a good ruler always knows when to ask for help, especially when it involves something that they have no prior experience with. If you want your young character to be a good ruler, then they most definitely must have a strong group of advisors such as noblemen, spiritual guides, generals, bankers, and other such people at their back to help them manage their kingdom.
4. A Good Ruler Knows When to Be Fierce
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Though this may sound a bit harsh, part of the reason why anyone is ever a ruler (or in a position of power) at all is because the subjects are a little bit afraid of them. If your character has all of these other attributes, people will serve them willingly and this fear shouldn't necessarily be required, but think about it; why do we follow the law? Why do we allow our country to be run by people, some of whom we may respect but most whom we find intolerable?
A good ruler knows when to make an example out of people. No matter how amazing this ruler is, there will be people discontent under their power. There will be assassination attempts, coups, and rebellions. Allowing these things to slide without punishment will open up the doors for the ruler to be deemed “weak” and lose respect, so in these situations you should allow your ruler character to bring down the gavel…and some public executions may be in order.
Examples of Good Rulers in Fiction
Ned Stark, Game of Thrones
Ned Stark is the paragon of an even-tempered, moral leader within the Game of Thrones series and novels, and is revered by many characters within the story due to his stoic, honorable nature. One of the primary examples of his righteousness is his motto: “Whoever passes the sentence must swing the sword. If you would take a man's life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.”
Aslan, The Chronicles of Narnia
Although you may poke fun at the fact that Aslan is a lion, there is no doubt that he is one of the wisest and bravest rulers in literature. He is fierce and dangerous, but unquestionably good, and all of his subjects have steady faith in his abilities. He is willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of his people, even if it is just for a single one.
Aragorn, Lord of the Rings
Despite being reluctant to take up the throne, Aragorn overcomes his hesitancy and assumes his role as rightful king so he can lead an army of the undead into battle against Sauron. Aragon is a man of the people, and possesses unwavering bravery and nobility, which is no doubt why he is so respected by the fellowship and by his people.
T’Challa, Black Panther
T’Challa often questioned himself and his decisions as ruler of Wakanda, but there is no doubt that he is a level-headed and well-spoken ruler who tries to do the best for his people. He was able to overcome the vengeful nature that consumed him after the death of his father, and went on to help not only his country, but others around the world.
Hope this helped, and happy writing!
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thatbadadvice · 12 days ago
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Help! My Wife Wrote a Book When She Should Have Been Caring For Our Newborn and Supporting Our Family, Which She Was Actually Also Doing!
Dear Prudence, Slate, 23 November 2021:
Q. My wife wrote a secret book: My wife is an accomplished author who also holds down a fulltime job in an unrelated field, mostly for the benefits. When we had our first child last year, we agreed that she would pause her writing career—something had to go with a new baby at home.
Except, it turns out she didn’t pause it. She got a great idea for a new novel, wrote it secretly during her lunch break at work, and sold it for $100,000. I feel so many things right now; it’s hard to be mad at someone when they casually tell you your son’s college education is now paid for, and her lunch hour is technically hers to do as she wishes. But she went against our deal! She could have been home an hour earlier every night this year if she hadn’t done this project, and when I think back on all the times she’s been tired or grumpy in the past year, I now blame the book (even though it could have just been caring for a newborn). How do I trust her to keep to her word? How should I feel right now?
Dear My Wife Wrote A Secret Book,
I think there's only one thing a person can feel when their wife had a baby, worked a full time job, and wrote a novel on her lunch break that she later sold for a six-figure advance such that it never fucking affected you for a single moment until it became the subject of your whole family's wild financial success: absolutely fucking enraged at her unbelievably rude self-centeredness!
Who the entire fuck did this bitch think she was, being a parent while setting the entire family up for an easy, debt-free college send-off while being a creative fucking genius, when she could have just as easily not done any of that because she owes you every last fucking minute of her whole-ass life? She could have preserved the most precious thing in the world — a promise she made that she in no way broke by doing a thing you didn't even notice she was doing — or, she could have stifled a great idea so that you and she and your child could be saddled with life-long debt!
Honestly, the gall.
Women are getting mighty uppity these days; many, like your wife apparently, believe they can "have it all" by spending every waking moment trying to hold the whole world's shit together and funding it, besides! When what they really should be doing is keeping their good fucking ideas to themselves and sitting down, shutting up, and making sure no one else has a nice time, ever. You owe it to yourself and your child to make sure the poor example your wife has set is never repeated again, lest people give you every last gift they have to offer so that you never worry for a single dang moment about anything ever.
The truth is, you can't trust your brilliant, creative, awful, and bad wife to keep her word! She may get entirely out of pocket and do some further absolute perversity such as
writing more novels that keep your family in financial comfort indefinitely
doing so while not at all interfering with you or any of your dip-ass nonsense
making sure everybody has enough to eat and a place to live
being smart and cool as hell
even if it's hard and stressful and makes her occasionally grumpy and tired
Just generally a list of the worst shit women can do, especially when they are moms of newborns and should be full of vim and vigor like all new parents everywhere! Definitely divorce this untrustworthy intellectual slag so that you can find out what life is like without her, and with someone more reliable instead.
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greenlightpaperbacks · 2 months ago
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"Maybe we're just born to love and worry about the people we know, and to go on loving and worrying even when there are more important things we should be doing. And if that means the human species is going to die out, isn't it in a way a nice reason to die out, the nicest reason you can imagine? Because when we should have been reorganising the distribution of the world's resources and transitioning collectively to a sustainable economic model, we were worrying about sex and friendship instead. Because we loved each other too much and found each other too interesting. And I love that about humanity, and in fact it's the very reason I root for us to survive - because we are so stupid about each other."
- Sally Rooney, Beautiful World, Where Are You
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aminmiin · a month ago
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pleasepleaseplease read Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao, the poli mecha angst extravaganza it’s great
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mais-e · 6 months ago
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“I love that word. Forever. I love that forever doesn’t exist, but we have a word for it anyway, and use it all the time. It’s beautiful and doomed.”
— Viv Albertine .
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gffa · 11 months ago
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Light of the Jedi | by Charles Soule VINDICAAAAAAAAATION FOR EVERY JOKEY HEADCANON POST WE’VE EVER MADE ABOUT JEDI ROMANCE NOVELS IN THE GFFA BECAUSE IT’S CANON NOW THAT THERE ARE JEDI ROMANCE NOVELS IN THE GFFA VAGUELY SMUTTY JEDI ROMANCE ROMANCE NOVELS THIS IS THE FUNNIEST GODDAMNED THING “THE ONLY ACTION WAS THE LIGHTSABER BATTLES THAT WERE CLEARLY A SUBSTITUTE FOR WHAT THE CHARACTERS REALLY WANTED TO DO” HELP I’M CRYING
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canmom · a month ago
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some fascinating gender shit from the early 90s in Temporary Agency (1994), the sequel to Unquenchable Fire (1988) by oldschool trans author Rachel Pollack:
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it's interesting that the idea of a trans girl computer hacker is like, as old as consumer PCs pretty much. the protagonist in this one is a cis lesbian which makes it this funny sort of reacharound thing where Pollack imagines the pov of a cis girl who is kind of reverent towards this plot convenient trans girl. very different time...
(also the old school computer shit is quite funny, protag rents a couple of hotel rooms and sets up modems to proxy her signal, and this gets quite a bit of detail. it's a curious one this book, much more of a spy/detective story than the first. hopefully I'll be able to make another worthwhile Post on it when i reach the end...)
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