owl in winter

owl in winter

Friday, January 13, 2012


Are adverbs our friends?

Do you ever run crazily or scream loudly or maybe even climb mightily? Now, when I run, I just run. It may be crazy at the time to be doing it but, I run just the same. I seldom scream but if I do scream, take it for granted, it's loud. My climbing, which these days is limited to small ladders at my law office, trying to reach a file from the top shelf, is simply that. I climb up the ladder, retrieve the file, and I climb down. There's nothing mighty about it.

What do adverbs do to our writing? I believe, adverbs weaken our writing. The real action, the real strength, is in the verb.

Are you ever insanely crazy? I heard that one not too long ago. Okay, that's an obvious one. Let's move on.

Sometimes I think writers, and I'm talking to myself here too, simply like to hear the sound of their own voices. We love words. Spinning a weave of words is what we do, right? Well, sure. But what we really do is spin an idea. We sow an idea in the reader's head, a grain of a seed that blossoms into a plant and bears fruit and is the story we are writing.

Adverbs are pretty, sort of like a false promise is pretty. When you get below the surface though, it's all show and no substance.

I attended a writing workshop last weekend and part of the program included a critique session. I sat in and, it being my first time at this workshop, I tried to stay quiet and listen. We had a lovely lady bring her work; she read 19 pages aloud and although it was an intriguing and well thought-out story line, her work was filled with adverbs and trite cliches. I ended up writing her a note and I simply asked her to read through her manuscript and cut the adverbs out. She was confused and asked the question of the critique group, "Are adverbs bad?" Apparently, an editor somewhere told her to use them all the time, as much as possible. I don't think that is the trend but if it is, heaven help us. At any rate, I don't think she was satisfied with the answer she got (not from me) that, yes, adverbs are bad. They do not help your writing in any way.

If you have not read it, find horror writer, Stephen King's, book called On Writing. Mr. King addresses the subject of adverbs very well and listen, that guy, he's sold a bijillion books. He must know something.

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