Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Case of the Feels

            I’m deep in a draft right now, so I just wanted to offer a quick tip this week.  Every now and then I’ve mentioned keeping an eye out for certain words.  Ones that are redundant or often unnecessary.  Here’s another one that just struck me the other day.
            From here on in, I’m going to go over my manuscripts and get rid of “felt” in my writing.  Not the fabric, the word.  Felt is one of those words that knocks my writing one step back from the reader.  It keeps them from getting immersed, from identifying with the character.  Because when I use felt, Yakko isn’t having things happen to him... he’s feeling things happen.
            Check out a few examples and see how much stronger these sentences become without felt in them

She felt razors of flame slash at her arms.
Razors of flame slashed at her arms.
He felt a deep, yawning pit that could never be filled open in his chest.
A deep, yawning pit that could never be filled opened in his chest.
Phoebe felt her heart stir as Wakko appeared outside her office window.
Phoebe’s heart stirred as Wakko appeared outside her office window.
Yakko felt the bullet punch through his vest and into his ribs.
The bullet punched through Yakko’s vest and into his ribs.
            Don’t those second versions have a lot more energy?  They’re each a word or two shorter, but they’ve got a lot more power behind them.
            Y’see, Timmy, if you want to get technical, using felt like this is a weak attempt to turn passive writing into active writing by making the character “feel” the actual action of the sentence.  So getting rid of felt isn’t a hard-fast rule, but I’d bet at least four out of five times my writing’s going to be a lot tighter and stronger without it.
            So get rid of felt.  You’ll feel better about it in the long run.
            Next time’s going to be very close to Valentine’s Day, so I figured we could talk a little bit about... well... you know.
            Until then, go write.


  1. "saw" and "heard" are two other ones, i think - "he saw the monster eat the person" etc., although there are probably times when those are appropriate.

  2. I must not use passive language. Passive language is the mind-killer. Passive language is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

  3. Rakie--I've been trying to cut down on my saw use, too. And I agree, there are times when just about anything is appropriate. Like I said, four out of five times felt can go away, but that fifth time...

    Marcus--Passive language is the trap Usually. Not always, but usually.

  4. Very informative, Mr. Clines! I'll have to control+F "felt" and see what I can do with my writing! :D