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  1. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Grammar Adverb hate

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by doggiedude, Feb 15, 2016.

    I've repeatedly run across author advice that tells people to lose the adverbs most of the time. A special hate comes from using them to describe dialogue such as
    -He said passionately "......
    - She said breathlessly "......
    etc etc
    Because of this overwhelming adverb hate I've been having trouble getting information in regards to characters themselves using adverbs in dialogue. When I character actually says the word "Probably" or other such adverb is it still unacceptable?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dialogue doesn't need to follow any rules. Make your characters talk like your characters would talk.
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    As @BayView already mentions, how characters speak (dialogue) is a separate creature from the narrative of your work (the not-dialogue). Just imagine making all your characters speak with perfect adherence to grammar and syntax rules and also to the kind of advice you mention about adverbs. Every character would sound exactly the same - like little pedantic grammar cops - and the lack of adverbs would be strange. We do use them all the time when we speak.
     
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  4. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Thanx .... I was under the impression that it would be alright but wanted some other views. Try googling adverb & dialogue everything comes up as "dialogue tags"
     
  5. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    Dialogue tags, such as "he said" are typically advised not to have adverbs because it's "telling" rather than "showing" (I've even heard advise that writer's shouldn't use anything but said, which I think is a little overboard). I've had a considerable amount of trouble trying to understand telling versus showing, as it at times seems contradictive and I've seen many examples where the "showing" makes no sense--not everyone thinks of hot cheeks as getting embarrassed, for example; if an author used "hot cheeks" to show a character is embarrassed, I might get confused about what emotion they're experiencing because I think of hot cheeks as anger. There have been several times where I had no idea what the writer was trying to show and I had to skip that part and just read on.

    In your examples, you could write. "she said between breaths," and I think it would be good enough, even if it is just telling (I get confused on when it's OK to tell instead of show). In "He said passionately," the passion is supposed to be shone in his words and/or actions, rather than said with an adverb.

    "Show, don't tell" is confusing advise o_O
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It's bad advice is what it is. The phrase should be: Whether you show or you tell, do both with deliberation.
     
  7. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    Amen! :superagree:
     
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  8. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've never understood the hatred for adverbs myself... In fact, in a piece I posted in the workshop, someone said every time I used an adverb, it reminded them of a creative writing homework assignment. I guess my skill level just isn't high enough to write without them. *shrug*
     
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  9. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I like the occasional adverb, including in dialogue tags. It's only where there are a lot of them that it starts to feel amateurish. What's 'a lot'? Impossible to define.
     
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  10. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Protip: open and book with the "bestseller on it" and you'll find he/she said with a few adverbs.
    They don't do it 100% of the time, sometimes weaving narrative into the dialogue tags like "It was his best impression of the French accent, pursuing his lip just so to make it comedic"
     
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  11. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Whether adverbs are ok or not, after reading about adverb hate I used a piece of software to search for them. I found that I used the words probably & really waaaaaay to often. So in that respect I was glad to have been told to watch for it. Last week I went back (once again) with my current manuscript draft and did lots of editing.
     
  12. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Those are two particularly ( :) ) weak ones, in my opinion. A sentence is rarely ( :) ) improved by either of those words and rarely changes in meaning when you take them out. See also: slightly.
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    The only example that I can think of (doesn't mean there aren't others) of my approving of adverbs in dialogue (that is, dialogue tags) is when they contradict the words of the dialogue.

    "I'm going to kill you in your sleep," she said cheerfully.

    Even then, there are other ways to communicate the message, but the adverb no longer has the stale, redundant feel that it has for me when it matches the words.
     
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  14. NobodySpecial
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    NobodySpecial Active Member

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    I didn't understand the adverb stink, at first, myself. Adverbs are a valid and needed part of speech. So what's the problem? Of all the rationale I've come across the best I've seen is :There's nothing wrong with adverbs. The problem is in how they're used and over used. When you rely on adverbs to shore up a sentence it shows weak writing. It took me a while to appreciate what that meant and I'm still working on the execution of the concept, but I feel I'm improving. The idea shouldn't go as far as the exclusion of all adverbs, but limit them to just extreme need.

    Show, don't tell has been a tricky one for me too. 'Show' keeps the reader engaged in the story where 'tell' just kinda drags the reader along for the ride. Where it gets problematic is that not all of the information you need the reader to have can come through 'show', so you need some 'tell'. If you think about it, when was the last time you 'showed' someone a joke? Has a child ever asked you to 'show' them a bed time story? I am beginning to find it's a matter of creating a smooth balance between the show and the tell to make the reader feel as though they are taking part in the story, part of the story rather than just sitting at a window watching it go by.
     
  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think adverbs are fine, used in moderation. The main problem with them is they tend to be weak - a weak verb/adverb combination used where a stronger verb would be better. For example, instead of saying someone "ran quickly to the door" you can say they sprinted, or dashed, or use any of a number of stronger verbs.

    As @ChickenFreak noted above, they can come in handy when trying to convey a sense that is contrary to what the dialogue would convey on its face.
     
  16. uncephalized
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    uncephalized Active Member

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    Actually a good joke well-told is an excellent example of the show-don't-tell principle. A good joke is never explained. It's funny because the images or ideas you create in the audience's heads are inherently funny. They just get it because you have given them the right details for them to make the connection to the punchline on their own. So while you are literally telling them words, you are always literally telling words when writing as well. The key is whether the words you use carry sensory and emotional detail--evoking vivid images and sensations--or they are explanations, told to us as though by thirdhand account (much like this dry diatribe I am now composing). If you do the first, you are showing; the second, telling.

    It's the difference between:

    The officer had sat at the computer three hours trying to write, and he was tired. When he closed his word processor there were only four words on the page. They said 'I can't do this.'

    He didn't save the file.


    and:

    He kneaded the back of his neck, clammy fingers rubbing life back into his cramped spine. The red glare of the clock on the shelf over his computer informed him it was 0213. God, he'd been at this over three hours, and his duties started at 0530. The blinking cursor drew his eye back to the page, taunting, at the end of the only four words he'd managed tonight: 'I can't do this.' He closed the word processor with an angry jab of the mouse.

    The speakers pinged. 'Do you want to save the changes you made to Document1?' He stared at the little box for a long breath, air sighing out his nose, before clicking 'No' and turning his guilty eyes away from the accusing screen.


    I mean, I think both approaches can have their merits and both are useful, but the sense of scene and character and feeling is stronger in the second version, even if it does take more words to convey the same events.

    Yikes, long ramble.
     
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  17. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think the only "rule" should be that you should refrain from creating a predictable pattern.

    "... she said, breathlessly."
    " ... he replied, passionately."
    "... she said, furiously"

    In my opinion, is just as bad as:

    "... she exclaimed."
    "... he remarked"
    "... she retorted"

    Or even:

    "..., he said."
    "..., she said."
    "..., he said."

    My point is that, whatever you do, take the rules with a grain of salt. I think that as long as your tags are natural to your writing style, to the dialogue of the character, and varied in accordance with the spice of life
    (;)), it shouldn't be a problem.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am firmly of the opinion that "said" is the right choice for, oh, forty-nine out of fifty tags--when you need a tag at all.
     
  19. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I find it extremely boring and redundant when all thrown out there in a row. *Shrugs*
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, but that's where "when you need a tag at all" comes in. Quite often, you can replace a tag with a beat, or have neither tag or beat.
     
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  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I use a beat or nothing when it makes sense. If I need a tag I typically use an invisible one.
     
  22. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I think using adverbs to describe dialogue is fine because language is interpretable so it's up to you to make sure they know what you mean. So I do it. But the second description does make the scene more interesting, so if you want to emphasis the moment and make it strongly meaningful, that approach for event narration is good. And you can find way to do the same thing with describing dialogue. Using metaphors and stuff instead of adverbs, which I do also use to mix it up.
     

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