Simple Writing Tips 2: Don’t be Interesting.

Don’t be interesting. (And Don’t be Nice to Your Readers Either.)

Today, a simple quick tip. Avoid the two words ‘interesting’ and ‘nice’.

(Also ‘fascinating’ is just a more French-sounding way of saying ‘interesting’ and ‘okay’ is a just a less enthusiastic ‘nice,’ so I count them the same.)

Many young writers use these words because both are so ingrained in conversational English where we often try to be inoffensive to people in soclal situations and avoid taking strong stances. They are used to AVOID giving away our true feelings, either because we haven’t thought about the topic deeply enough to have strong opinions or we want to keep our true feelings hidden from people who might react badly. In writing, where you want to express your personality (or at least a persona of some kind), these words are generally useless and should be eliminated.

Smelly chair_cr2 400Let me illustrate: Imagine a child who spends a day at the home of an aunt whose house was full of scary antique chairs which make creepy creaky sounds when you sit in them. The aunt makes constant comments about the child being too shy which makes her even more insecure and the whole day is an exercise in sitting still and listening to adults speak.

As they drive home later, the mother might say, “So how did you like your Auntie Aisha? What did you think of her house?”

The child (let’s call her Wahida) is sensible enough to know it would be impolite to insult their mother’s sister or reveal that she found their conversation boring. So she answers that Auntie Aisha was nice and her house was interesting.

But in a book, you cannot afford to be polite. You want the reader to react and to be curious about the people and their world. Different words are needed. Specific words. HONEST words. Words with some effort of thought behind them.

For instance:

Wahida’s aunt smiled so much that her face seemed permanently set into the skewed grimace of a marionette. The girl tried to back away from the prickly material of Aunt Aisha’s dress and the faint scent of onions that preceded her, but the woman kept cornering Wahida and gripping her chin in her oily hand while insisting, “Cheer up! You have to cheer up!”

Now, I only just created Auntie Aisha for you, but I’m sure you already want to stay out of her way. That’s the power of using specific words.

Not every situation calls for such a detailed description of course. Maybe you just want to casually reference a picnic your character once had. But even a casual reference is stronger if it avoids being interesting or nice.



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