Watch This

Editing the tenth or so draft of the latest novel and identified a new pet peeve of mine--the verb "watch" and all its iterations. While the word has its uses, most of the time it just doesn't belong. 

"Watch" is what I call a distance word. It creates unnecessary space between the text and the reader. We don't need to know that a character watched something happen, if we're in their POV it's implied. Here's an example from my novel:

"Jan watched sparks from the fire crackle in the night sky, drifting on a light, early summer breeze."

But how about just "Sparks from the fire crackled in the night sky, drifting on a light, early summer breeze."

The second one's better, right (maybe not good but better)? "Jan watched" doesn't add anything, but it does take up space. And it filters the image a bit, right? Instead of giving us the pure, unadulterated version, we have to picture someone else looking at the thing that's being described.  

Of course there are times when you have to throw a "watch" in. If a character's watching something is integral to the story, it might make sense. For example:

"Rock watched his friends laughing and hanging out and wished he felt like doing the same."

Here the "watching" is closely tied in to the way he's feeling. There's probably a more poetic way to put this, and I would never argue it's the best sentence I've ever written. But it does feel needed here. 

Or this one, maybe:

"Rats nipped out of their hidey-holes, watching carefully for the thing that stalked the hallways"

Here it's a description of rodents watching, not a character watching something. Which I think works. 

But most of the time, it's just not needed. Do we need to "watch" a monster creep closer, or can the monster just creep closer? I think it can, and should.