How would you like to annoy readers and add thousands* of unnecessary words to your manuscript? Then welcome to my personal pet peeve: perpetually noncommittal characters. I’m not talking about characters who are afraid to make a decision due to potential repercussions. No, I’m talking about those whose dialogue never ceases to be filled with a collection of “probably”, “maybe” and anything else that makes your characters sound like they lack the brainpower to make a FREAKING DECISION ALREADY. Even worse is the repetition of the same words over and over again.
I was particularly guilty of this in early drafts of Coldfire and have since been working to obliterate it from my work. My pet word was “probably” and I still cringe whenever I read it. Take this for example: “If you think about it, they should probably be the most powerful because they can influence other elements, but they aren’t.” While this instance may not be so bad on its own, I find that my irritation with the writing accumulates with each one of these I see. Hopefully it’s not just me with this problem 🙂
This is at its worst when used by a strong, decisive character or when every character in the entire story does it, which tends to make them all sound like each other. Both of these happened in a book I recently read. While the characters themselves were distinctive, I grew to hate whenever they opened their mouths and this, among many other flaws, made reading more of a chore than a pleasure. And that is never a good thing.
So please, people, keep your dialogue crisp and unburdened with unnecessary words. Come to think of it, the same applies to narration. And so ends my rant.
*Number may vary.