I did a word frequency analysis on my story. Unsurprisingly, the most over-used words often corresponded to passages where I was lazy with my description.
I'm tackling my over-used words "laughed" and "chuckled". For example, there is a paragraph:
"No 'we'll see', bring him around. I’m old, you have to listen to me." Abel chuckled. "Take care, Sara."
"Chuckled" feels rather generic; I don't want it repeating over and over. When I write "chuckle," I picture Morgan Freeman or Ian McKellen expressing with a faint chuckle mild delight with the humor of his previous statement and genuine caring for and approval of Sara. All the visuals and the character dynamics are there for me. I can see it vividly in my head, but can't find the words to express it.
I studied the thesaurus and failed to find alternate words to describe this interaction.
This is a specific example, but I'm sure every writer has their own words that just keep popping up over and over in their story. And it seems so natural and essential, I don't know how to fix it.
How do I remove the overused phrases, and what do I replace them with?