Monday, 1 September 2008

The Word Felt is Banned!

With A Few Things Writers Can Learn from Harry Potter Editor Cheryl Klein provides an excellent advice on the craft of storytelling.

One of the things I learned from this speech was that the word felt is banned! Well not really but it should be used very much in moderation.

Cheryl goes on to say

When I'm reading manuscript submissions, I'm always alert to the use of the word "felt," especially in the first ten pages Because if you-the-writer are having to tell me how your character feels, Then that probably means you haven't succeeded in getting me in the character's head So I'm not feeling those emotions alongside the character And I read books precisely to get out of my own head and emotions Into the experiences and feelings of these imaginary people.

Of course I took another look at how many times I'd used felt in my first chapter. Needless to say I won’t be posting that info here LOL, but in my defence, I checked one of my earlier drafts and found I had used the word half as many times in the more recent draft, and I think this is because a critique partner had mentioned that the sample I had provided lacked human level emotions, so of course I went and overdid it on the rewrite.

I've revised Chapter 1 now and in and most cases I have rewritten the offending line completely, some I have replaced felt with seemed and in others I've left it completely alone because, in some cases, it is perfectly alright to have that word in there! I mustn't loose site of the fact that any art is subjective and that the word felt would be perfectly Ok for some, but not in the quantities I had used it.


  1. 29 times in 40,000 words. Not bad, I must've learned that lesson somewhere. I've certainly taught it (though not in the express terms of "don't use the word 'felt'").

    Most of the instances I found were things like "He felt the knife against his throat" or "He felt something in his pocket." I'm pretty sure it's allowed in those cases, right?

  2. That's pretty good going, and I think you've hit the nail on the head where you have allowed "felt" in your prose.

    It's the sort of thing I left in. I'm pleased to say that there were only a few occurrences in my remaining chapters (at least those that I have rewritten using MRUs - I still have half a dozen or so to rewrite on that count).

    I love writing :-)


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