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  3. Is "look" a commonly overused word?

User Info: rodman870

rodman870
3 years ago#1
Just did a search of "look" on my main story, and I've used it 600 times across 200 pages. Is that too much, or is look an accepted common word like said or more of a junk word like seemed?

Because I'm trying to get away from using it so much, but it comes up constantly, and there's really no good synonyms other than gaze, inspect, view, stare, etc. Then it's also commonly used as a synonym for "expression," and "appear," which means it gets used even more often.

I'm guessing a good chunk of the sight looks I'm using aren't vital to the story, so I'm probably gonna have to reexamine my writing style as opposed to figuring out my colorful ways of saying that someone looked at something/someone. I can cull a bunch of the ones I've already used, but I think I need to cut down on situations that require it in the future.

Just wondering what you all thought of this word.

Edit: Here's a list of synonyms I found that could be used instead of look, but they all just seem so showy for an action that usually doesn't require much attention:

gaze, see, glance, watch, survey, study, seek, search for, peek, peep, glimpse, stare, contemplate, examine, gape, ogle, scrutinize, inspect, leer, behold, observe, view, witness, perceive, spy, sight, discover, notice, recognize, peer, eye, gawk, peruse, explore

User Info: Bedman

Bedman
3 years ago#2
Can you give us an example of the kind of context you use it in? It can be used in many forms, like to start a string of exasperated dialogue: "Look -- I don't appreciate blah blah blah" etc. and you can get away with a lot in dialogue.

In general, though, I say it's good to identify the word you overuse most, and then work on eliminating it. I noticed a while ago that I have a tendency to overuse the word "seemingly." That told me I needed to be more concrete and commit to my descriptions.
Bedman: Mattress of the Universe

User Info: rodman870

rodman870
3 years ago#3
Sure, here's some random looks I pulled up:

"At first, she looked fine, although slightly unhealthy..."
"He looked around the room to find his keys."
"They looked down at the tattoo again."
"...his features faltered and he gave the girls a stern look."
"He looked between the two as if they were actors on stage."
"She looked over at him, causing Jim to snap..."
"He looked over his shoulder and prayed no one would walk in."
"She loosened her stance and looked at him."
"He began to look back at her, but..."
"He looked to his left again to see if he could spot her."
"He looked around and realized he was alone."
"I'm sorry, I'm just looking for my sister."

Anyway, you get the gist. This is all within 10 or so pages of each other. I'd say 75% are sight looks, 15% are "expression" looks, and 10% are "appear" looks. Sure, some of them I could change, like "glanced over his shoulder," or "searching for my sister." I guess I just haven't put a lot of thought into it until recently.

I remember seeing a topic a while ago about some actions are implied during a story, but I'm not sure how often looking applies to that rule.

User Info: tigerslashII

tigerslashII
3 years ago#4
"Look" is like "said", it takes a while for it to get old. There's usually other words that work for it though. Glanced, stared, eyeballed, glowered, searched, gazed, and of course the ever popular ascribing other actions to the eyes. "he undressed her with his eyes."
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User Info: Terotrous

Terotrous
3 years ago#5
That might be slightly too many, but generally most writing problems occur when you're trying not to overuse a common word. If you're using the word so much it's probably because it simply occurs a lot in common speech.
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As an action, to look is fine. As a description, it's telling instead of showing. If you say, "he looked angry", it does nothing for the reader. Let them infer the emotion from vivid physical detail.
Your absence has gone through me, like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color.

User Info: Terotrous

Terotrous
3 years ago#7
The Muffin Lord Bob posted...
As a description, it's telling instead of showing.

Not always. If you say "he looked like _______", it can still form a compelling or funny description. Look is just such a common word that you can't avoid using it a lot of the time (and nor should you try to).
http://www.backloggery.com/tero - My backloggery
http://whatliesbeyondnovel.blogspot.ca/ - A psychological fantasy novel, now fully posted online!
Can you give an example or two?
Your absence has gone through me, like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color.

User Info: Senel Coolidge

Senel Coolidge
3 years ago#9
Any word can be overused.

600 might be a little too much. Especially in what I assume is 50,000 words. I wouldn't recommend playing the synonym game though. If you think you're overusing it, you might want to try to work around it. But when it works, it works. If you go out of your way to change it, it's just going to sound awkward.

Some of them will be removed when you go back and edit and rewrite. Just for example I'm working on rewriting one of my works right now.

In my last draft to the same point, I used the word "felt" (which is a very overused word) 159 times. I've since (without actively trying to leave the word out) reduced it to 116. That's 43 times the word was used that I removed without thinking about it. Those are the instances that you most want removed.

Remove what is unnecessary. But that should go for everything, and not just the word 'look'. Just my two cents.
It's definitely a job for the editing process. If you try to correct it while producing rough draft, you'll mess up your flow. No reason why you can't fix it later.
Your absence has gone through me, like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color.
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