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I just realized my prose is filled with somethings. Here are some examples:

I was already too far away to go back, and I figured the dog (if it'd been a real one) had ran back to where it had came from—which meant there was another way into the forest. At least that’s what I hoped for. Not a minute passed, however, when something made me stop again. The rottweiler! I spotted his eerie green eyes right behind a bush. It sprinted away as soon as it saw me.


I thought the dog wanted to cross the bridge. But no, it suddenly turned to the right and, as if in an agility competition, jumped over the barrier. At that same moment something shoved me, sending me to the floor.


“No, I believe you," he said, "I'm just wondering what the rottweiler wanted to do. Dogs don’t usually make you chase them—they are the ones that make the chase. Based on what you just told me, it seems like the dog wanted to lure you into a trap or something.”

Is this a sign of bad writing? If that's the case, what can I do to fix it?

4

By and large, overusing a specific word or phrase is not great style. However, what I see here is the same word used three times with three different meanings. The first usage references a mental idea or thought process. This could probably stand to be more specific (what made the narrator stop?) but otherwise is a perfectly cromulent usage. The second is in reference to a physical object or person, which the narrator cannot see and/or identify. As for the third usage, "or something" is a basic turn of phrase used to express ambiguity.

So, for the specific examples you cite, I don't think there's anything wrong with them or that they necessarily need changing. Of course, like all things stylistic, a lot of it is down to personal preference. In a more general sense, if you find yourself using the same word or phrase over and over, look more closely into why you use it, and whether there's a better way to express it that's more specific or simpler to understand.

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I don't know about the repetition, but I feel the somethings are bad style for different reasons. Avoiding "something" makes your text feel less wishy-washy and more intense and to the point:

Not a minute passed, however, when the rottweiler stopped me again.

At that same moment I was pushed to the floor.

“... it seems like the dog wanted to lure you into a trap.”

The solution, in my opinion, is to name the "something".

For example, if the dog stopped him, why first state that "something" stopped him, only to immediatly clarify that it was the dog? The man wouldn't stop if he did not recognize the dog right away. If he thought it was just a bush, he would keep going. So he sees the dog, then stops. Why not retain that immediacy, by naming the dog, instead of causing a hesitation in the narrative that is not there in the action?

Or, why does he say that the dog wanted to lure him into "a trap or something"? What other something could there be that he could be lured into? I have no idea. This sounds like you have no idea what other something could be there, either. So just delete it. The dog wanted to lure him into a trap. And that sentence ends with a nice clear and unconfusing "bang", just like the trap would.

Or something like that ;-)


Just went to your website.

Maybe you can try to delete superfluous words:

Once again, I traveled three hours only to eat sushi, alone. Cars passed by and people streamed along the sidewalk.

So:

Again I traveled, three hours, to eat sushi alone. Cars passed and people streamed along the sidewalk.

Write like a guy with a lot of muscle: less words, more impact.

"Once again" does not tell me more than a simple "again". The "only" is a comment by the narrator, not a description of the character or the action. Hold the narrator back and let the reader come to their own conclusion. Yes, cars pass "by", when they pass, we know that, so don't tell us what we know.

Even if there are things that the readers cannot know, some things left out for the reader to wonder and guess create tension and interest, where detailing out every particular just creates impatience and boredom. Be brief to the point of omission, and suddenly your narrative will become rich with meaning.

The somethings are the same: too many words, where less words say the same or even work to create interest.

1

Yes, such generic placeholders are definitely washing out the image. The reader reads descriptions to gain knowledge of given situation, and these are empty, useless duds.

If the information is limited, give the scraps that are still available. A surprising sight made me stop again. Two hands shoved me, or a mass against my back shoved me.

Only use something when the data is insufficient to provide any meaningful info. "Something's rattling inside the box." There's very little to be said about whatever's rattling, so "something" is justified here.

Same goes for "A kind of" or "Some sort of." There's hardly a worse way to describe an object than as "some sort of object", especially if it's generic and exists in thousands variations. "We arrived at some sort of castle" is the laziest way of getting out of describing the castle while still technically describing it.

Now, for curbing that... well, Ctrl+F is your friend. Just find all occurrences and think of improving them. After several dozens corrected, you'll start catching yourself when you write that.

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Every writer has certain phrases they repeat "this", "what I did", "and then", "some sort of".

Mine is "some sort of".

Where and how you employ these phrases have to do with your style. It would be a sin to omit all of them. It would be excellent to keep them where they fit.

"something" isn't anything to omit, it lets the reader put whatever they want in its place. You wouldn't want too much of that or they'll lose grip of the story. But it does add mystery. Consider this example:

She wanted me to move to Houston or something. She had ideas about us. A whole future. 
She had been doing some thinking. I had my own ideas of how that would go. It would be 
something that would end in a fiery explosion visible for many miles in the night sky.

The first something works because it tells us the reader is hardly paying attention to her. The second something can be omitted. It obfuscates. (also doing away with night sky).

It would end in a fiery explosion visible for many miles.

If removing the words you use to frame the imagery leads to a better result, cut it out. Otherwise, sometimes they lend a familiarity or extra beat to a sentence, and can be left as they are.

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Your use of "something" is a bit of a literary crutch. Most writers have them in one way shape or form.

Since you have have identified this particular issue, now would be a good time to correct it. As others have already noted, the word "something" is just a placeholder. By itself it literally means nothing.

I'm not saying that "something" should be banned as a word. It definitely has its uses. It could be used to create an air of mystery, or to attempt to describe an object, mood, feeling, idea, etc. that doesn't have a name.

As others have suggested, you can replace the word with another phrase which is more descriptive.

I was already too far away to go back, and I figured the dog (if it'd been a real one) had ran back to where it had came from—which meant there was another way into the forest. At least that’s what I hoped for. Not a minute passed, however, when something made me stop again. The rottweiler! I spotted his eerie green eyes right behind a bush. It sprinted away as soon as it saw me.

Can be changed to:

If the dog was real, then there must be some other way out! I scanned the area, and I caught a glimpse of his eerie glowing green eyes behind one of the bushes. I tried to approach him, but he must have gotten spooked. He leaped out of the bushes and took off down the path.

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