More twists and turns on the writing journey.
Day Eight: Death to Adverbs
Today’s Prompt: Go to a local café, park, or public place and write a piece inspired by something you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.
Thoughtful writers create meaning by choosing precise words to create vivid pictures in the reader’s mind. As you strive to create strong imagery, show your readers what’s going on; avoid telling them.
Today’s twist: write an adverb-free post. If you’d rather not write a new post, revisit and edit a previous one: excise your adverbs and replace them with strong, precise verbs.
The sin of telling often begins with adverbs*. Author Stephen King says that, for writers, the road to hell is paved with adverbs:
The adverb is not your friend.
Adverbs…are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind….With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.
Instead of using adverbs as a crutch, rely on strong verbs to convey emotional qualities that imbue your writing with nuance, allowing the reader to fire up their imagination. Consider, for example:
“She walked proudly out the door.”
Remove the adverb “proudly” and replace it with a strong verb to denote how she walked:
She strutted out the door.
She sashayed out the door.
She flounced out the door.
Each example connotes the emotion with which “she” moved, creating a more vivid picture than “proudly” ever could.
Note we’re not advocating the eradication of all adverbs all the time. The goal of this exercise is to place a constraint on adverb use to help you to focus on using strong, precise verbs in your writing.
I read the theme for Day Eight at 3pm yesterday afternoon. Jean and I had been out before lunch. To the recycling yard some six miles away to deposit a load of old steel fencing that had been retrieved from the property over the last couple of weeks.
Hardly the stuff of inspiration!
So I decided at this point to put down ‘my pen’ (aka keyboard) and go and sit next to the pond where the mother goose is still sitting on her eggs and use that as my source for a short, adverb-free post.
The power of motherhood
Twenty-eight days of loving her unborn brood. Still she sat, her head turned towards where I was sitting, just keeping an eye on me as I hadn’t been this close to her before.
Besides where I was sitting, to my left, the leaves of the bamboo tree rustled in the steady afternoon breeze. The green of the leaves contrasting the blue of the clear sky above me.
I just marvelled at the patience, at the commitment, of this mother goose. The magic of nature.
Our mother goose had loved her egg-bound goslings as Spring had arrived in this beautiful part of Oregon. Loved her goslings through rain, frost, fog and cold nights. Rewarded with an afternoon of glorious Spring sunshine.
Sitting on her eggs as the delicate leaves of the Japanese maple had burst clear and unfolded themselves over the last four weeks. Now the leaves offered some shade from the afternoon sun.
Then I noticed the harmony between the rustling of the bamboo leaves, so delicate a sound, and the roar from the tall pine trees to my right, on the boundary between us and neighbours Larry and Janell. As if the bamboo was whispering in concert with the pines.
Surrounded by some intangible magic, beyond definition, but not beyond meaning.
The power of nature.
See you all on Friday.