Quality of Life

Some people like to say, "Eat well, do good, get exercise, and die anyway," as some sort of excuse for partying, being unhealthy and/or being inconsiderate. This logic has no place in a happy, fulfilling and successful life. Regardless of when you die, you want the life you live today, and tomorrow to be the best life you can possibly have. There is no excuse for not doing the best for yourself and the best you can for those you love. Even if I were going to die in six months, I still would continue my diet exactly as I do (if not do even better) because I want the highest quality for my life. The quantity is quite irrelevant.

~Raederle Phoenix Jacot

"Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?" ~ M. C. Escher

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Novel Writing; Evil Adverbs

I wish I could still attend my Writer's Group meetings; I miss them more and more.

I once read the book, "On Writing," by Steven King. One of the most potent things the book taught me is about how 'less is more.' Each sentence and word needs to say something. If you take three paragraphs to describe something and the image is vivid, then that's great. If you spend three paragraphs describing something and the image is foggy as San Fransisco in the morning, then your writing isn't going to attract any readers.

I've found that I actually enjoy reading condensed writing better than most elaborate writing. Why is that? Perhaps it's because it's simply easier to write something good that is condensed than it is to write something good that is detailed. This may seem counter-intuitive, especially to anyone out there who hasn't ever been able to write enough to express anything, but let's look at this from the perspective of the 'evil adverb.'

Every article or book about writing I've browsed through talks about 'evil adverbs' in one way or another.

What's an adverb, and what is evil about it?

An adverb modifies verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They can also be used to modify whole sentences and prepositional phrases. Clear as day, right?

Modify a verb:
o She walked quickly.
o They ate quietly.
Modify an adjective:
o She was incredibly beautiful.
o The tree is very old.
Modify another adverb:
o The dog ran very quickly down the street.
o Martha hugged her Grandma really tightly.
Modify a whole sentence:
o Obviously, he can’t have seen us.
Modify a prepositional phrase:
o They found the locket just under the bed.

Most adverbs are created by adding the -ly ending to an adjective.

Examples: slowly, painfully, quickly, crazily, strongly, etc.

However not all; well, never, fast, very, always, often, still, just.

Why do editors cringe when they see an adverb? Depending on the writing style (there are some exceptions - and you're not one of them) adverbs are red flags. They replace concrete descriptions or phrases with words that don’t hold real meaning.

Writing with adverbs:

The very pretty woman was terribly afraid that she wouldn't be able to escape. She slowly came to standing from her crouching position. Quietly as she could manage, she crept forward and around the bend. When she finally reached the cover of the trees, she broke into a very fast run.

Let's see if we can do better than that.

Using visuals instead of adverbs:

The beautiful young woman shook with fear as she contemplated her escape. She rose from her crouch one inch at a time, daring not to make a sound. She spent an entire minute removing each boot, and then crept forward and around the bend. On the tips of her toes she slipped through the camp, not reaching the cover of the trees until nearly night fall. Once covered with the shadows of the trees, she broke into a run.

Now it's your turn; take a piece of your writing you know needs work and try replacing every other adverb in the passage with concrete description instead.


Ishtarmuz said...

Obviously, I realize that I use far too many apparently useless and redundantly trivial adverbs. I will try, willingly and willfully, to make them disappear completely and utterly from my blogging; however, that quite possibly will be an absolutely impossibly difficult task! Don’t you, like, totally and completely agree? Thankfully, I read this post repeatedly and completely. Hopefully I will take heed of your excellently offered and often quoted and as often ignored advice.

Eli said...

Ishtarmuz, I can honestly say that you have totally missed the point of this beautifully put article. Clearly, you have completely misunderstood what the OP had thoroughly tried to explain in this post. Re-read it carefully, it's easy to grasp!

PS: Ironically, it seems I have missed the point as well. :P


Pedro said...

Good post.
Stephen King would be proud.
I will take good note

ArtPhoenix said...

Thanks guys. Your comments are a great source of amusement. :)