We all possess habits of speech. (Impressionists need a few handles to get ahold of).
In writing, a similar set of habits follows us. On the larger scale, favorite tropes and themes reappear. Characters pop up again in different guises. Line by line, you may find favorite turns of phrase, habits of rhythm, tendencies around sentence length and complexity. A writer’s tastes and training leave their fingerprints.
How Much is Too Much?
Most of you will have all heard of “said book-isms.” Teachers take great joy in helping students add variety to their writing by choosing new (and often rather distracting words) to replace “said” as a dialogue tag. Few writers at a professional level bother with such things.
My own writing has plenty of quirks. I like a good image. I like cranky dialogue. I like dark and daunting medieval nonsense.
With these things, I am happy.
Sometimes, however, I worry about the smaller issues. No matter how tense things get, how often can characters be said to whisper? How often can a writer mention which way a character looks or glances. And how many times can a character turn. (This last one may beat me).
My suspicion is that, for the most part, these little things dissolve into the story when the story succeeds. And that the grit of such details only chafes the reader, when the larger story fails.
(This will be my excuse to stop worrying about the little things — until a proofreader comes for me, you know, with a pool cue).
Back to revisions…