HELP!!! Writing Questions: Yes, even I have them!

While writing, it occurred to me that I do in fact need some help with this stupid WIP of mine.

For one, I’m sick of seeing the word “smiled” and I don’t like the alternatives I come up with.  How many different ways can you say smiled?  And why are all my characters smiling?!  And no, I don’t like the phrase, “lips curled up” BLAH!!

What do you do when this happens?!  I don’t want all of my characters’ lips curling up and don’t want to always say “smiling.”  HELP!!  What do you suggest?

And another thing.  Do you write the word “alright” which technically isn’t a word at all.  It’s “all right.”  I’ve been writing “all right” not “alright” but it seems as if a lot of people are using the “alright” instead of “all right.”  What’s your opinion?

Why do I feel a sense of urgency?!

This WIP is tearing me apart!

Whining and griping over now.  Thanks for the help in advance. :)

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16 comments on “HELP!!! Writing Questions: Yes, even I have them!

  1. I can’t help you much with the smiling ( :-) ), but here’s my thinking on “alright.”

    Yes, we should avoid “alright” (I even checked the Chicago Manual of Style), but the problem is that people say it in conversation. It would look weird to have this:

    She asked, “Are you all right?”

    That would take the reader right out of the story. So, I use “alright” in dialogue. In fact, I make sure that some of my characters (the ones who speak precisely) use “alright” rather than “okay,” since “okay” is even less proper.

    My two cents.

    • I’ve been using “all right” even in conversations in my novels. I really have a hard time writing “alright.” The English major in me is screaming every time I write or read “alright.” lol

      But I can see what you mean by it. And I appreciate your two cents. I always trust your advice. :)

  2. I prefer to see “alright” but I’ve actually started using “all right” myself.
    She grinned, laughed, smiled, beamed smirked. Yep it’s hard to find alternatives isn’t it?

  3. Dear Emerald,

    I go through the same issue with my characters and I have to say I agree with Anthony Lee Collins opinion on the use of “alright” instead of ” all right” for the purpose of dialogue. You are correct that it should not be that way, however in dialogue, you have a sense of freedom with the way you want to address your characters. For example, I also do not like the use having to have my characters smile either, but yet I do get that from time to time. Therefore, I guess I see it as each of my characters has a way of being potrayed by what we as writers want them to say. I can understand your frustrations and I really thank you for venting it to aspiring authors like me. I hope this helps!

    Syl Stein

  4. You could substitute, “She/he looked amused”; or, if you don’t suffer from adverb-phobia, you could use the occasional “he/she said happily / cheerfully / brightly”, as those convey a sense of smiling without stating it outright.

    In lieu of a written in stone rule, I will tend to use “alright” if I’m writing in a modern setting or in a modern character’s voice, and “all right” if I’m going for something more otherworldly or archaic. It helps me feel visually consistent.

    Best of luck alighting on your preferred solutions!

    • Thanks, Danielle! I do like the adverbs, and I think in YA fiction, adverbs are fine. Frankly, I don’t hate them like a lot of others do.

      And I like you’re rule. It makes sense. :) I will just have to see what comes of it in edits.

      It all boils down to if I can force my fingers to type the “alright’ or not. lol

  5. I think you answered your own question – why are all your characters smiling all the time? If they’re that happy, maybe you need to throw something nasty at them to make them unhappy – conflict.
    The story needs a hill, then a bit of a valley, then a larger hill, then a downhill, then another climb (you get it) to the climax. A similar emotional state throughout sounds like it may look flat if it were graphed out, rather than full of ups and downs, reversals of fortune, characters facing obstacles, finding their way out, then another obstacle.
    Know nothing about your WIP, but that’s my thought from what you described. Take your frustration out on your characters and see what happens ;-)

    • Haha. Thanks, Natalie.

      It’s only in the first few chapters, and it was only a few instances. Someone is trying to charm someone else… blah blah blah. I took some of it out. :)

      There is plenty of conflict in my book, I think. It’s basically someone has to woo a lady and the lady is stupidly falling for him. You know how YA books can be. ;)

  6. I’m in favor of “all right,” all the time, but I’m seeing “alright” in places and could be swayed to Anthony’s view of using “alright” in dialogue. My style frustrations right now are related to transitioning from AP Style (the newspaper way) to Chicago. I’m putting together a book of Oregon author interviews and essays about the craft of writing, and it’s amazing, but I keep fighting myself on which way to do things–primarily where the two guides diverge on numbers and commas. Sigh.

    As far as emotions, the ladies at The Bookshelf Muse created The Emotion Thesaurus for just this kind of problem. Here’s a link: http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/p/emotion-thesaurus.html

    • Thank you so much! I’m definitely headed there to check it out! I learned MLA style writing. I’m stuck in that mindset.

      I’m pretty sure I may try “alright” especially for my YA novels. I don’t know though. The English major inside me screams in protest….

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