16. Replacing Empty Words with a Metaphorical
I discovered a trick/technique that is occasionally of some use:
1. This will be one more good thing on my resume.
2. This will be one more jewel on my resume. ("Tracking")
Thing is an unappealing word – it's a pronoun, taking up space and not really doing anything. So it's a good word to try to eliminate in editing, grammatically speaking. I do that all of the time; usually there's an easy grammatical fix.
But another solution is to create a metaphorical, usually a lexaphor. #2 is not a huge improvement, and I don't feel braggish about it. But it's better, which is what writing is all about.
That gave me a formula: Look and see if the word thing can be changed into a lexaphor.
1. He topples off the bed, leaving nothing between Elaine and the barrel of my gun.
2. He topples off the bed, leaving only a broken marriage between Elaine and the barrel of my gun.
That's my best metaphorical. But it's also my only great success with this formula. Usually I don't find a metaphorical, or the metaphorical I find is only a small improvement. Which still makes it worthwhile looking. What about other authors?
This . . . thing . . . was incongruous with the rest of their spotless kitchen. (Lie to Me, Ellison, page 16)
The "thing" was a note for him. Perhaps:
This . . . intruder . . . was incongruous with the rest of their highly-organized kitchen.
There is now some repetition, which maybe should be edited. But I rate this new sentence as better. (Spotless was probably the wrong word.)
It and there are also low-information words.
1. Then there are glances around the room.
2. Glances fly around the room. ("The Experience")
NEXT – The Psychology of Making Metaphoricals