It seems like I remind almost every author about this oversight:

Many writers mistake the context of seemed, thinking it means “gives the appearance of.” More precisely, the context of seems is: “appears to be one way when in fact it is another – usually the opposite.” Therefore, as an example, if you say that Joe seemed to be unhappy, the context is, it appears he is unhappy, but in fact he’s secretly delighted.

But the main reason I caution writers on its overuse is that in most cases, “seemed” (or “seemed to”) is a WEAK word that waters down the effect and thus dilutes Dramatic Tension.  Note the difference between, and the implication of, the following two sentences:

1. The body didn’t move, he seemed dead.

2. The body didn’t move, he was dead.

Clearly, #2 has more impact on the reader, because there is no question, no doubt – the immediacy of death overtakes the reader. The body doesn’t have to be examined or prodded only to later confirm, “Oh yeah, I guess he is dead after all.”

Like surprises? Use the FIND/REPLACE feature in MSWord; type “seem” in the FIND field and search through your manuscript. I’m betting you won’t believe how many times “seemed” appears.

C o n n e c t
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