Repetitive Words in Your Writing

Avoiding Repetitive Words For an individual that loves to spend hours every day writing paragraphs upon paragraphs of content, whether it be for a novel, fanfiction, or even a drabble, we often find ourselves trapped by our own love of specific words. Every author will have a sack containing their favorite vocabulary. After all, the words we choose create the style that makes up our unique voice. However, the downside to those go-to words and a frequent writing schedule is that we’ll forget to diversify. Repetitive words (even amazing words) will leave your work stale or even diminish the impact you were trying to make with a certain sentence. Take a look at some of your writing. Do you see any words in there that you seem to use all the time? Repeatedly? Several times in the same scene? We’re not talking about the common words like “the” or “and”. Descriptive words! Said. Awesome. Good. Nice. Mad. Engorged. If you find yourself over using a word, switch it out with something different. You might find that changing that one single world can add a whole different kind of atmosphere or oomph to the scene. Adding additional words can flesh it out even more.


The food tasted good. The food tasted amazing. The food tasted incredible. The food tasted like a soggy wet box with salt dumped on it. The food tasted like a sweet and spicy mix of heaven. Before you break out that thesaurus, consider whether or not the new word is something your readers will understand and if it actually makes sense. Where it’s fun to occasionally toss in unique words that no one has ever heard of before, if you pepper your entire work with them you’ll end up with paragraphs of nonsense.


Read the paragraph below. Rewrite this paragraph using more interesting words and sentences. Do not use any of the descriptive words that are already in the paragraph. You can make this scene as long or as short as you want, just make sure not to repeat yourself.
He walked into the dark room. On the table was a brown leather bound book. He picked it up and began to read. Inside were beautiful pictures. More colorful images filled his vision with each turn of the page. His mind was consumed by the enchanting words. He dropped the book to the floor and fled from the room. The sound of chilling laughter followed him.

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Brainstorming Using Tarot & Oracle Cards

The Tarot has been around for centuries. Originally it was a card game played for fun, but over the years the cards took on beautiful symbolism and meaning as artists brought to life their own decks. These days the Tarot is a tool for divination, insight, and for our purposes… inspiration! Using Tarot cards to tickle your muse is as simple as picking a card out of the deck at random. Each card often has a background story, symbolic imagery in the art, as well as traits associated with the card. You can draw from these things to develop the personality of a character, a struggle or consequence they may be facing, or even ideas for journey your character might take.

Ideas For Inspiring

  • Divide your deck in to 5 parts: The Major Arcana, Cups, Pentacles, Swords, and Wands. Shuffle the stacks separately and then draw one card from each pile. The Major Arcana card represents your character as a whole. Cups represents a piece of your character’s personality. Pentacles gives you where they are in live with their work or school. Swords will be the conflict or problem your character is currently facing. Wands can be your character’s goal and aspirations in life.
  • Shuffle the entire deck and draw 3 random cards. The first card represents a major event in your character’s past. The second card is a conflict your character is facing in the present. The third card is an event that will happen in the future.
  • Draw 5 random cards. Two cards are your character’s virtues. Two cards are their flaws. The final card is something that will change them as a person – good or bad.
  • Draw 7 cards. The first card is your character. The second card is your character’s past. The third card is their present. The fourth is their current conflict. The fifth is a person who is strongly affecting their life. The sixth is their greatest fear. The seventh is something they need to get resolution.
  • Extra fun tip: If you draw a card upside down – reverse its meaning! For example, if a card normally means someone is going to come in to some money, when its upside it would mean they are about to loose money instead.

Don’t have a deck of your own? Use MixVixen’s Tarot Card Generator!

Dive Deeper in the Meaning of Tarot Cards:

Creating a Character’s Style Profile

How clear of a picture do you have of your character? When we think about them, we often have the details of the face, hair, and even body shape clearly formed. From the narrow beak-like nose to the wayward mess of dark curls. These are the very foundation of your character’s physical appearance, so of course it is the first thing we consider. Clothing offers an extra layer to the development of your character. Look at the people you find walking down a busy street. What are your first impressions from their choice of clothes? Are they in uniform ready for work? Do they look like they’ve just rolled out of bed and put on the first shirt they found? Whether someone is fashion clueless or a diva of style – what you wear reflects who you are as a person and what you do. It can reveal your interests, feelings, social rank and more. It can also hide a truth, simply by dressing in a way that manipulates perception.

Here is an exercise on discovering your character’s style profile.

When deciding on a style profile for your character, consider the little details. What are they showing the world? What are they trying to hide? Why would they choose to buy that particular article of clothing? Do they like dressing casual because they are a relaxed person? Do they only wear fancy super model fashions because they feel it makes them look more important? Are they obsessed with multicolored socks because they are weird and quirky and it’s the only way they can express it?

What are your first impression on…

…a young woman wearing a black leather mini skirt, vibrant flower print tube top, bright red lipstick, and six inch heels. …a dude wearing stained sweat pants, a ripped band t-shirt, a nose ring, and is covered head to toe in dirt. …a man in a spotless, well tailored blue suit with a banana-print tie, an Italian leather briefcase, and scuffed suede shoes. Now, taking it a step further: Are the first impressions the correct one? What might be the deeper story behind these clothing details?

Ask yourself these questions about your character and see what develops:

  • Are they always freshly showered, or are they dirty? Is there a kind of mess where you can see hints of their job/hobby? Example: Covered in hair as a hairdresser, paint splatters as a painter, concrete dust as a construction worker.
  • Are they well manicured and groomed? Do they keep their hair super neat and tidy or is it messy? Do they groom their facial features like shaving, or eyebrow plucking? What about their nails?
  • Do they wear makeup? What kinds and styles?
  • Do they wear jewelry or other accessories? Earbuds for music or wireless cellphone?
  • What kind of fashion sense do they have? Do their clothes match? Do they look well put together or does everything look thrown own with no thought?
  • Do they prefer casual clothes? Work clothes? No clothes?
  • What sort of style would people say they have? Country? Punk? Glamor?
  • What colors do they tend to wear? Do they wear these colors on purpose, or is it just something they tend to be drawn to?
  • Do they have a favorite article of clothing?
  • What kind of shoes do they wear?
  • What sort of underwear is under all of those clothes?
  • Are their clothes following current fashions? Old fashioned? Do they dress with a specific time period in mind, or do they dress according to local customs?
  • What condition are their clothes in? Dirty? Filled with holes? Well maintained? Brand new? Hand-me-downs?
  • Do they spend a lot of money on their clothes or do they shop more frugally?
  • Where do they typically buy their clothes?

Need ideas or inspiration? Shop around!

A great thing to do when creating your character’s style profile is to actually shop around. Look at fashion websites or check out magazines. Watch a TV show or movie that’s related to your genre and see what kind of wardrobe the characters are in. I am also a big fan of websites like ShopLook, UrStyle, and TrendMe where you can create your own fashion sets and browse sets made by others. It’s a fantastic way to get a visual on what the styles would look like and an easy reference for when you’re writing out those details on a character’s favorite trench coat or the heeled shoe they just broke.

Fleshing Out a Scene

Coming up with scenes to put in your story is easy. You may even have a breeze of a time writing the first draft and getting it down on paper. But what’s next? How do you turn your scene from a skeleton to something fully fleshed out without adding too much purple prose, unnecessary description, or pointless padding?

Lets look at a few things you can use to give a scene more life.


Painting a picture of your character can be as simple as dropping a few descriptors here and there with your sentences. The color of their hair or eyes, the shape of their body, tattoos, scars, facial expressions, and so on.


Scenes are not just a white void of nothing. Where are your characters? Are they in a bedroom? A coffee shop? When they look around, what are things they take notice of? You can describe landscape, furniture, walls, weather, and more.


Characters are not going to be standing still doing absolutely nothing, even if the scene isn’t chock full of action.They might be smoking a cigarette, fidgeting with their fingers, straightening up the living room, or looking at their cellphone as they talk. Have your characters interact with the scenery around them.


Often underused, scents can add tons to your scene. Outside there might be the scent of fresh cut grass, smoke from a fire, bread from a local bakery. Indoors they might smell cleaning products, musty old couches, or a teenager’s rank bedroom. There are even people smells like perfume, breath, and shampoos.

Thoughts & Feelings

Depending on the point of view you’re writing from, thoughts and feelings could come in to play. What is the character thinking about their surroundings? The people they’re with? Their current issues? What kind of emotion is driving them at that moment? Love? Hate? Sadness?


There is bound to be dialogue in most of your scenes. Your character could be speaking out loud to themselves, praying to a god, singing to a pet, or talking on the phone. They could even be texting or passing notes back and forth in class.

Remember: It’s not about the length of the scene, but the content.

When you’re looking to round out your scene, consider this: Does this scene add something to the story? Does it display a tidbit about the characters, hint at a connection in the plot, or help move the story forward? You can write several paragraphs, but if it’s all talking about a butterfly sitting on a fence and has nothing to do with your character or give something to the plot then it’s useless fluff. On the flip-side, a single line or paragraph might eliminate padding – but it may also lack enough content to create the atmosphere needed for readers to visualize the scene. You want to find just the right balance.
When it comes to fleshing out a scene, you don’t need to put all of the above things in to a post to make a good one. A balanced combination can give you that extra added oomph to make your scene interesting.

Brainstorming: The Big Six Questions

Let’s assume that you already have an idea for a story. A really basic idea. You just have no idea how to expand on that idea. What you need then is a little bit of plot brainstorming. I like to call this plot bunny breeding! You’re taking your core concept and then breeding tons and tons of ideas that can work with the story.

In this brainstorming exercise, think up six options for each question that relates to your plot. Weave your favorites together to create your outline.

WHO …is in this plot!

In this case the WHO will be the stars of the story. They might be a single main character, many specific characters, or background characters. Your cast of characters can bring up many different plot ideas. In a zombie apocalypse, you’re going to have different sort of story ideas for a group of high school students compared to trained army soldiers.

WHAT …will happen in this plot!

All plots need conflicts and road blocks. Stuff that is going on in the world. Your WHAT should list off a bunch of things you want to throw at your main characters. Are they being attacked by aliens? Is the country at war? Will there be love triangles? Will there be sex scenes?

WHEN …is this all happening?

The WHEN could mean anything from history of the world, time of life for the character, or timeline of events. It can also include when you would like certain plot events to happen to your characters. When you have a lot of things you want to do in a plot, you can write down the sequence of events, and even create more plot ideas on how those events connect together.

WHERE …is this going to take place?

Locations can have a lot of impact on the story. Jotting down lots of places for WHERE you want scenes to take place will help with ideas. Different kinds of plot twists and storylines can come out of changing up locations. Like taking place at school versus at work or at home. In a country that is at war or walking in to a tavern in the middle of the night.

WHY …is all this happening?

You won’t have a story without having reasons. The WHYs are reasons that things are happening. Two countries at war; what happened to cause this? Why are characters involved and trying to fix or fight? Those damned zombies are here, but how? Why did the aliens choose Earth to invade?

HOW …does it all tie together?

When you’re putting together a bunch of elements they need to be related and make sense for your plot. If your plot is about fighting dragons in a fantasy land, but you want to feature a scientist as a main character, you need to figure out HOW that can be accomplished. In a modern setting about Japanese high school students, you couldn’t throw in this Russian mob kid without knowing how they got there.
A lot of people get hung up because they keep having ideas, but none of them seem to work for their plot. Don’t give up or be discouraged if the perfect idea doesn’t come to you right away. Sometimes you need to ramble out a bunch of random nonsense before you hit inspiration. With brainstorming, you are getting your brain in gear to help you find that perfect idea. Where one thing doesn’t work out, you may come up with something even better!

Using Sex as a Plot Device

Smut! Erotica! Naked Butts! Sex scenes are a fun way to add life to a plot; to give it a nice punch of emotion, conflict, and spice to the story. The big problem is that sex has a stigma. In the Romance genre especially, sex scenes are much like the explosions in Michael Bay movies. Totally fun, but when gratuitously thrown in every other chapter without point or reason it falls lacking. Sure it’s hot to read your favorite characters gettin’ it on, but how great would it be if each sex scene actually developed your characters and progressed the story? Let me take you on a magical ride through the randy world of se-

Hold up, lady. All I see is a whole lot of description about where genitals are getting stuck. What is the difference between Sex as a Plot Device and Pointless Boning?

Well, dear reader, it all comes down to consequences. Good or Bad. Your sex scene should be adding something to the development of your characters and plot; a catalyst of change. It could be an expression of feelings or it could be creating conflict and problems. In your story, you have a problem, a goal, and a resolution. This moment between characters should either be helping or hindering them towards that final resolution.

Okay, I get it. Sex scenes can have purpose. But how do you use SEX as a story element?

Ask yourself this: What does this scene affect in my story? Your sex scene is adding to your plot. No matter the choice of theme or atmosphere, it changes something for these characters. It doesn’t just have to be an endless barrage of sex in a dozen different positions. The characters can learn something in these moments about themselves or each other.


Even when you are writing a romance novel, there needs to be more to the story than “the characters meet and fall in love and bone”. Are you writing a murder mystery or a fantasy? A medical drama or a contemporary comedy? The context of your setting can make a huge difference on your sex scene. Characters will be able to interact with the setting and in turn also be affected by what’s around them. Think about what could go wrong. What goes right? Could they be discovered or interrupted? Is it a private space where they feel comfortable doing things they normally might not? If you’re writing about two high school teachers having a secret affair, a sex scene set in a bathroom at the school would have wildly different potential consequences compared to a scene in the bedroom at the married character’s home. It’s the difference between getting caught at school and losing their job, or getting caught at home by a spouse.


With every scene in your story your characters need to evolve. What does it convey about the characters? What did the moment mean to that character? How did it affect or change them, even if in the tiniest way? Because of the sex, something has altered someone’s life and every time it happens, it’s making the problem better/worse. Suppose our teachers wanted to bang one out during lunch period. One is hopelessly in love and the other is cheating on their spouse. How has giving in to temptation changed things for them? Are they thrilled about what happened or is there regret?
Examples of Sex as a Plot Device with Common Trope Pairings:
  • The Sex Slave and Master. A classic pairing that reeks of porn without plot, but a clever writer it can bring exciting life to this potential story. It can be an inspiring tale of exploring one’s sexuality through BDSM where during one sex scene the main character learns how to set boundaries and this new confidence spills over in to the rest of their life. You might write a tragedy about abuse in an unhealthy relationship; how the dynamic is being used to manipulate a character in to sex they don’t want.
  • The Vampire and Human. This pairing is so popular there’s thousands of novels dedicated to the hot vampire trope. You can go for a romance that borders on obsession; guy or girl being so infatuated with this dark and dangerous creature that they throw sense out the window. This could be a story about seduction and resistance, the vampire charming their way to what they want. A psychological thriller with erotic torment; a fantasy that goes horribly wrong. A Romeo-Juliet tale of love, going against rules and expectations in favor of love.
Remember: The scene should trigger consequences in the plot. Perhaps your vampire has seduced the wrong person and someone seeks revenge. Maybe your character exploring the world of BDSM has noticed their partner’s style lines up a little too well with the modus operandi of a serial killer on the news. Consequences make things interesting.
You CAN have character and plot development with your sex scenes. A wonderful and engaging story that gives all of that sex some real meaning. Whether it be two characters hooking up at a bar for a one night stand, or the love affair between a married man and his secretary. There is a story to tell beyond all the ways you can bang a person. Do it well and you’ve got a spicy element to add to your novels!

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