Listening to novels, a thing I do while engaging in the tedium of hand quilting, has been instructive for a couple of reasons. The repetition of words stands out after a few hours of listening. One author uses the word “prodigious” as his go-to whenever there’s a lot of something to describe. Another author has his female characters biting a lip or chewing on a lip whenever he wants to show them being pensive.
When I say these word choices stand out after a few hours of listening, I really am listening for a quilting session that lasts about three hours. Note to hand quilters: If you choose a pattern with lots of curves, like the stencil pictured below, you will be quilting for a long, long, long time.
This stencil, about 8 inches by 14 inches, repeats over the queen-sized quilt I’ve been working on since January. It takes me about three hours to stitch one of these panels.
But I digress. I don’t bring up what amounts to a kind of writer’s tick because it represents a flaw in the books. A reader rather than a listener might not even notice. But once I noticed, it did prompt me to go back over my writing project to see what go-to words showed up in my copy. It turns out my characters, whenever they’re involved in difficult conversations are always “looking away” or “looking down” “closing her eyes.” Also there is breath holding and sighing. Oh, the sighing. So the next edit I’ll be searching for some words and phrases and seeing if I can change it up a little.