Okay, Alright, Er, Hm…

Filler words. A writer’s enemy.

Filler words are typically meaningless words used in the middle of a hesitation or pause of conversation. Example: You know, Er, Hmm, Alright, Oh, Okay, etc.

In college, these words were whipped out of me and I’ve grown to detest them. Yes, there are awkward pauses that can fill you with tension to the point of saying something just to break it up – but please don’t use filler words. Move a conversation along to the next topic. It’s a pet peeve of mine.

I call these a writer’s enemy because I believe most writer’s know good groundwork of the written language and filler words don’t belong in good writing. However, to make your writing believable/realistic, those filler words are almost a requirement. Not everyone is going to realize they use such words or have experienced a college class where the professor docks credit if you use them verbally.

In writing, filler words can be used to break up a long paragraph or where a single character is talking for a long period of time. Another character can be inserted as trying to interrupt by using “Okay…”. Just don’t litter your work with them.

Example: The Harry Potter series and the Twilight Saga uses them throughout the books.

The biggest eye-opener I had to filler words was in another college class of mine. The brilliant professor had a tendency to use such words. The picture below was the record of each time he used the filler words. He used 626 words within that 3 hour long singular class setting. And that wasn’t all because I grew tired of counting towards the end. He probably thought that was my best day of note taking.


As you can see, I grew to despise the word “okay” for that quarter.

L. R. Mauck

Your Hero’s Moment of Weakness

Many of us writers want our hero or main character’s to be inspirational. For them to make a lasting impression in that they will stand the test of time. So, we want them to be strong, intelligent, and attractive individuals. Basically, we want them to be everything we can imagine as the prefect hero. However, if you want the story to be realistic – then you must accept that your character needs to have flaws to be relatable.

I wrote some time back about character flaws. I wanted to expand on the topic and tie it in with your character’s personal journey as well as the roadblocks and climax of the story.

They can still have that personality trait or physical trait that sets them apart, but what if you insert a momentary hitch in their journey as in a moment of self doubt, depression, terror, misunderstanding, or jealousy as they approach the climax of the story. That hero will not be strong, intelligent, and attractive as we all wish, but they will be real.

For example:

Say your character is a great warrior who has a list of achievements longer than they are tall. It is okay to have that same character deal with moments of self doubt – it would be even more intriguing to have those moments of self doubt on the edge of battle or in battle, as if the warrior believes that  any moment they are going to fail and cost their own life. The character is assumed to be brave and strong just because they are a warrior with many battles fought. However, the flaw is self doubt. Another idea for that same scenario is for the brave warrior to face someone they are terrified of.

Say you’re writing a crime novel – have your hero be terrified of a gun because a close friend or family member was killed by a gun shot wound. Have that character have to raise the gun as a matter of life or death – I’ll leave it to you on if they pull the trigger. But having that internal debate and struggle will make them relatable.

To have your character as a perfect individual all the time with a clean emotionless journey will become boring to the readers and your character may seem arrogant and cocky.

A professional example:

Harry Potter (yes, I’m referencing again): in the Deathly Hallow’s when Harry realizes he must die to kill the Horcrux living inside him. There are a few moments when he’s making his way towards the Forbidden Forest that he wants someone to see or stop him. He wants Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Weasleys, and Luna in a wish to see them one last time or them to see him. Neville and then Ginny make actual appearances as he’s leaving, and lastly, his parent’s, Sirius, and Lupin in their ghostly forms. Harry was weak in those moments, but he was strong and brave as well. He didn’t want to die, but yet, he kept moving knowing that he was going to.

L. R. Mauck

Genre’s Part One

pic2Selecting which genre your manuscript falls other is a tricky task. The problem for most stories is that they fall under more than one genre. Knowing which genre your story falls under will aid you when you seek out your agent or editor, and again later when you market it.

So, let’s start with what is a genre. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines genre as “a distinctive type or category esp. of literary composition”. Dumbing it down: a genre is what classification your novel will fall under. Think of when you go into a library or a bookstore – or even a regular department store – the books or goods are divided up into sections. A library or bookstore will have the non-fiction separated from the fiction books, and romance novels separated from the children’s books and so forth.

So, what are the different genres you might ask. Well, there are many and even different categories or sub-categories of the genres. The most basic two genres are the fiction and non-fiction.

Fiction: something (as a story) invented by the imagination (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Non-Fiction: not fiction (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

– Stories based on actual people, places, or events.

A few genres’ that fall under the fiction novels:

  • Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Romance
  • Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
  • Historical
  • Action and Adventure

A few genres’ that fall under the non-fiction novels:

  • Biographies
  • Magazines
  • Self Help (Handbook/Textbook) / Cookbooks
  • Memoir
  • Essay
  • Journal

Each of these categories have multiple sub-categories (as mentioned above).

As an example:

  • Romance can have regency romance, contemporary, historical, etc.
  • Fantasy has epic, dark, magic realism, high, urban, etc.

There is also the different age group genre’s: Children, Middle School, Young Adult, New Adult, Adult.

I will explore each of these categories in upcoming weeks.

L. R. Mauck

Weekend Challenge #20

challengeTo related with my other post today (What’s in a Name?), I would like this challenge to make you think a bit more.

For your current WIP or a story you are thinking of, chose one of your characters and tell me why you named your character as such. Does their name relate to the story? A physical or personality trait? ect.

My current WIP has a sub-character that will influence the main character throughout the story. I chose to name him “Harrow”. Harrow means to “cause distress to”. He will be a father-like figure to the main character but his own views of the world they live in is of a twisted and hurtful nature. So, his guidance to the main character will cause distress.

Also, I was busy last Friday and away from computers and internet access, so there was no Weekend Challenge #19.

What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


I do not think I’m alone in this, but choosing a name for a character is almost as trying as naming your child. There’s a weight and pressure that accompanies the character that needs to tell of their personality and their story.

Choosing a particular name for your character can give added meaning to the overall story. It can even be a certain trait that you want the character to live up to their name.

What to consider when choosing a character name:

  • A particular trait (physical or personality) the character lives up to
  • Historical reference (mirroring passed historical figures or a name from an era that your story is taking place in)
  • Symbolism
  • Name meaning
  • Location – where is the character from? Is the name to represent their birth country?
  • Heritage – race, religion, culture, etc.

For example:

Belle – Belle means beauty. In Beauty and the Beast – both cartoon and recent movies, they point out that Belle’s name means beauty and that she is beautiful herself, hence the name. It draws a contrast to the theme/plot of the story that you need to look inside a person to see who they truly are.

Also in the same movie(s) – the character Lefou – I mentally replace his name with “The Fool”. It’s fitting. He’s the stooge to the great warrior Gaston.

Harry Potter – Harry means: to torment by or as if constant attack (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary). The whole series, Harry is constantly under attack from Voldemort.

Also in the Harry Potter series – Draco Malfoy – “Mal” is Latin for evil, ill will. Other words that co-relate: malevolent, maleficent, malice, malignant and so forth. Draco is not necessarily evil in the books, but he’s not innocent either. He’s a bully and a character that is a victim of circumstance in how he was raised by a cruel father, much like Harry’s cousin Dudley.

Another name that has meaning: Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice. He his introduced to the Bennet family and Elizabeth as a good character of interest. However, as the story plays out, he lives up to his name: he is wicked.

Twilight series: Edward Cullen: Edward’s character was supposed to originate from the early twentieth century. Edward was a common name for that period. That is an example of historically dating the name.

These are just a few examples of how author’s placed more thought behind their names than just choosing a favorite name. I will admit that sometimes as a character becomes more developed that it is okay to change the name. I have many times.

A side note: If you are looking for something completely unique or even fantasy – look up names that mean what you want the character to stand for. Then change a letter in the name. Say you want to use Belle – but it’s over done and obvious – so add a letter or change a letter: Bella, Elle, Bellia, Belliah, Aella, Cella, etc. You know what you want and what the name is to symbolize. So, get creative.

L. R. Mauck

A Lesson Learned

With my crazy-business schedule, I added a new task to my writing experience. I’ll admit to being hooked on fan fiction. Yes, it is not clean polished writing, but I do love how many fans can add their own plot twists or expand on an idea and make the story their own. So, several months ago I had a lovely writer’s block form. To try plowing through it, I started my own fan fiction story. Yesterday, I got brave enough and posted it.

I was thrilled to have a review within the first thirty minutes. Though, it was not a review that spoke of my fine editing skills or good intro to my version of the story. Nope, it was a negative review of how I lost the voice of the original character, making the character too passive. I’ll be the first to admit that it was a little hard to swallow the review. I had spent hours editing the five chapters I wrote and was pretty proud of myself for getting it as clean as possible so their wouldn’t be grammar errors that this blog even sees. But after an hour of pouting, I realized the commentator was right. I had lost the voice of the original story. I had been reading stories from the fans for so long that I don’t remember how the characters come across any more.

The lesson I learn is that my own writing and editing can not work the same methods in all scenarios. My personal editing style is to just get the rough draft writing, then over the course of several revisions, I can shape and form my character’s stories and personalities. It also changes the voice and pace of the story. I also need to look at my own writing voice clearer rather than mostly focusing on the correct grammar. I tip my hat to those who are skilled enough to mirror someone elses writing style, voice, and characters. It’s much harder than I thought it would be.

Another lesson was that I need a stronger back bone to accept helpful criticism. Don’t close yourself off when people are offering their viewpoints on your writing. Some times you do need that outside eye to see it in a different light.

Another note:

I have seen several different agents post on twitter warnings of the idle main characters. Basically that if the character isn’t moving, than neither is your story. Each word, phrase, and paragraph all needs to push to the climax of the story. If the character is spending more time in idle thought or no mention of their body language (fidgeting or expressions) while conversations are being exchanged, then the story seems as if it has stopped. Now, that doesn’t mean to litter your story with such physical movement of the characters, but the story itself needs to move along.

Large paragraphs slow down the story. Best for more intense or detail provided scenes. Short paragraphs speed the reader along – good for action scenes.

L. R. Mauck

Small Personal Update


Thank you to all the followers and viewers. I was blown away when this fourth month old blog went over 100 visitors last month and I can’t thank you enough.

I must apologize for posting sparingly for last week, this week and probably weeks to come. My schedule has become increasingly busy and I’ve taken on a 3rd (part time) job as a chef at a candy shop (so excited that I get paid to play). My writing is suffering as well. I did put in a few hours last night editing, but no new writing for a while now. I hope that once my schedule gets a little bit more routine that I can get back to my stories. They keep playing out in my head, so I really wish to have them on paper soon.

I wish you all well with your writing and to keep with my motto: Keep learning, keep writing.

L. R. Mauck

Weekend Challenge #18

This weekend, I’m giving you a word prompt.

The word: storm

I want you to tell me what storm means to you, or use it as a description (e.i. stormy eyes, or storm clouds approached), or in a poem, or even just a sentence from your WIP. The word itself can be storm, rain, thunder, etc.

With the recent hurricane in Texas and the flooding as it makes its way up the country, I know the devastation is in the forefront of our minds. As writers, it’s easier to get our thoughts and feelings recorded on paper.


L. R. Mauck