I found something amusing on Amazon today. There’s a concordance for my story collection, The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress. The concordance lists the 100 most frequently used words in the book. They tend toward the masculine–ivan, jake, jimmy, john, sven. One thing is clear from this list: characters in the book, for better or for worse, seem to spend a whole lot of time looking and thinking.
across against always arms away baby bed beneath big black body boyd boys came car city come dad darlene day door down dress even everything eyes face father feel first front get girl go going got hair hand head home house ing ivan jake jimmy john know life little long look looked looking love man miss moment mother name new night now old own parents place right road rodney room saint say school see side small something stand still story street sven table take tell thing think thought time told toward two want wearing went white window woman world years
The exercise: Read a couple of your stories or novel chapters and try to identify the most frequently used words. Then write a story using precisely none of these words.