A few weeks ago, I read a blog post listing words to remove from your writing: really, very, literally, etc. (primarily but not exclusively adverbs). It was an interesting list and I see the advantage of removing these extraneous words from descriptive text. But my fiction involves a great deal of dialog and I want my characters to sound like real people. That means they may default to “you know what I mean”; “that’s literally the problem”; “really, really, really” and the dreaded “like.”
We all fall into lazy or nervous speech patterns that are less-than-stellar. In my efforts to create realistic dialog, I’m riding the line between all the unfinished thoughts, sentence fragments and sloppy grammar of real life conversations and dialog that reflects my characters’ intelligence, education and backgrounds.
It’s a balancing act. In order to sound authentic, some characters will say, “It was literally the worst thing that could happen!” OR “I was like there but not there.” Of course, if the character is supposed to be an eloquent, elegant speaker the very, really, literally, etc. are gone with the swoop of a red pen.
It’s a funny dilemma. When an even-tempered character whispers, “Now, I’m getting very angry” is the word ‘very’ needed? Maybe it’s not, but it certainly sounds like someone with a long fuse losing his patience.
Please share any thoughts on dialog. I’m “literally” waiting with baited breath.