Tag Archive - Vague Writing

Avoiding the Vague Swamp

This month we’re taking a hard look at Fatal Flaw # 3: Weak Construction. Last week editor Rachel Starr Thomson showed us the many pitfalls of weak writing as manifested by our sentence structure and bland choice of words. This week editor Linda Clare warns us about the “Vague Swamp” and how to stay out of it.

The fictional world you’ve created for your novel exists in your mind as fully imagined. This means there are a myriad of details you’ve assigned to the world—far too many details to write down in any one scene. The details you do share with readers will shrink drastically if you employ words that aren’t precise. Using vague or generalized words to describe the world you so fully imagined takes away from the experience you wish readers to have.

We can divide “Vague Swamp” words into three general categories: Intensifiers, Diminishers, and Vague-aries. These words are nouns or modifiers (adjectives or adverbs) that are meant to give a word more precise meaning but which do little work to define the object. Intensifier examples include: very, really, mostly, many, large, a lot, huge. Diminishers: small, tiny, little, some. Vague-aries: something, situation, circumstance, thing, stuff, problem. Continue Reading…