1. MacGuffin
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    MacGuffin Member

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    Adverbs

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by MacGuffin, Aug 8, 2009.

    "Hi is this the creative writing class?" the student asked eagerly.

    "Why yes" replied the tutor saucily.

    "Oh good. I almost ended up in marriage counselling down the hall" the student said expectantly.

    "Come. Sit down. let us CREATE!" the tutor bellowed ominously.....


    Anyway, I don't know where I'm going with this since these are terrible examples anyway. I think these highlight why adverbs are frowned on.

    But sometimes adverbs do add to the writing. But I am constantly trying to keep them out of what I write because that's what everyone says to do! But I've read some good stories which make good (well necessary) use of adverbs especially when indicating how someone is saying something.

    So, should I just use them or should I keep up my strict no adverb regime?

    Please help!
     
  2. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't like them used in speach because that's telling rather than showing.

    But otherwise, I think they work well with imagery provided that you give an indepth example of why the clouds 'floated ominously', or why the 'large man ate hartily'

    For example, If put this way:

    'The clouds floated ominously, rumbling forward like a terrible dragon'

    The dragon acts as a similie to explain why the clouds would look ominous. So, If used that way, myself I find them to be acceptable (As long as they aren't over-used)


    Stephen King donnae like them though. He says so in 'On writing', again, and again, and again....Yes, Stephen, we get it dear.
     
  3. MacGuffin
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    MacGuffin Member

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    yea I read that book.... he hate the adverb!

    So your saying ok for descriptive bits.... but not for speech. I got it wrong.

    Ok, but if someone said something nervously, how would you make sure that comes across without using the word nervously?

    AlsoI think ti was Stephen King who hates words other than 'said'. So things like 'screamed', 'bellowed', 'whispered' etc.

    But with neitehr of these good from I am at a bit of a loose end.
     
  4. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    I, on the other hand, try to constantly get away with using them for exactly the same reason. ;)
     
  5. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    Yeah, adverbs are frowned upon by the majority. Adjectives are frowned upon by many as well.

    Descriptive dialogue tags like "bellowed" are also disliked by a lot of critics and editors in favor of the basic said, asked, called, whispered, shouted/yelled,wept/sobbed ... and I think that covers it.

    In my opinion, adverbs are useful, but you should use them sparingly. I'd use one maybe once in every dialogue, maximum. They just look silly, and they are often redundant. To improve your writing, cut out the adverbs and instead make their meaning evident in the speech itself. If you can't (in some cases, it just doesn't work), drop clues in your description of the character. For example, an eager student is probably grinning, and if you're feeling particularly poetic you might tell us his eyes are shining (really, though, be careful when describing eyes; too many writers, especially fantasy and romance writers, seem to think that eyes are always gleaming and shining and twinkling in the dark like frickin' glow sticks).

    In case you failed to comprehend that abominable paragraph, a lot of writing "coaches" (don't take them too seriously) recommend that instead of relying on an adverb to explain something (whether you're dealing with dialogue or straight-up description), you should take the meaning of the adverb and find a different way to make it evident.

    Adverb-reliant description: John moved very quickly.
    Improvement: John ran.

    That's an extremely crude example that you'd never see in published writing, but I can't be bothered to think up something decent. You get the idea.
     
  6. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    'Yes, I'm ready,' said Jane nervously. - Telling

    'Yes, I'm ready,' sighed Jane, biting her lip. - Showing.

    Geddit?
     
  7. MacGuffin
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    MacGuffin Member

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    Ice... Ashleigh... thanks for the tips!

    Ashleigh - The 'biting lip nervously' seems so obvious now you've said it.

    Ice - I think you have said I can use them every so often which is basically what I want to do... I would never use them as in my rubbish example above.

    Ashleigh, did you know your name means 'a clearing in a wood of ash trees'?
     
  8. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    I seem to recall excessively adding an -ing phrase to the end of a dialogue tag being another unpopular tactic. If both are frowned upon, then that really narrows the possibilities.
     
  9. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    Then my thumbs are up. :)
     
  10. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thats.....not at all relevant to what I was trying to explain.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Adverbs exist for good reason. Sometimes you need to modify the message conveyed by a verb or adjective.

    But adverbs are the weakest way to adjust meaning. Adjectives are stronger, because they are the only way to augment a noun. Choosing the most appropriate verb is the preferred way to shade an action, though. A well chosen verb will not need an adjective to modify it. Te coice of a noun is usually far more constrained, which is why adjectives are generally more palatable.

    The exception is dialogue tags. Ideally, a dialogue tag should be as unobtrusive as possible. The verb is not there to convey an action. The entire tag exists to indicate who the speaker is. Trying to load more into it takes away from the dialogue itself. Therefore, a dialoge tag should nearly always consist of a noun ot pronoun and a quiet verb (said, asked, replied...) and very little else.
     
  12. Seppuku
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    Seppuku Member

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    In a class we were give the task of writing for 15 minutes without using any adverbs, it might be an exercise worth practising if you think you over-use your adverbs. But don't think of them as 'forbidden', you can find use for them.

    If it's unpopular, then there's no reason denying yourself from doing something if you think it's effective. In the case of the adverbs, showing doesn't always win over telling, though showing is ideal for imagery. I think adverbs may come in handy for pace...then again English is huge and there seems to be always a way of rewording something. So "he hastily opened the door" could be, "with haste he opened the door".

    With '-ing', it can be avoided excessively, but I think you can be more forgiving about it if used. ;) I think '-ing' phrase can hurt the pace, like "he yelled as the car was speeding around the corner" could become, "he yelled as the car sped around the corner." Though does it matter?
     
  13. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    Just to clarify, that wasn't my personal view on the matter. Just regurgitating something I read on this board that seemed very relevant indeed.
     
  14. Ghosts in Latin
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    Ghosts in Latin Senior Member

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    Frankly, I think avoiding the use of adverbs because some people say most people frown upon it is nonsensical. A single adverb can change the meaning of a sentence, and the feel of speech. Overusing adverbs, or using them badly should be frowned upon, but such is the case with any part of speech.
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    King doesn't follow his own advice, but he admits that. He uses adverbs plenty.

    OP, you have to think how a person acts when they are nervous or eager or any other emotion you will be tempted to reduce to an adverb.

    "Hi," she said, fumbling with the zipper on her coat, then broke eye contact with Tim and stared at her shoes.

    "Hi is this the creative writing class?" the student asked, bouncing in place. "I sure hope so. I'm ready to go. I got my notepad and everything."


    "Come. Sit down. let us CREATE!" the tutor bellowed ominously.

    The problem with sentences like this is they are vague. Why does the POV character think the tutor was speaking ominously? Was it the tone he used? Was it the way he moved? This is what you should focus on. Create the atmosphere, so we feel, too, that he is ominous.

    He sat, the shadows half concealing his long face. His voice was low, raspy, yet he spoke with elegance. And something beneath his voice, as if coming from the darkest parts of the man's soul, seeped into his words. "Come. Please sit. Let us create."

    It takes more work, but it also paints a vivid picture and hopefully produces an atmosphere.
     
  16. amateur
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    one of my English teachers (i had 2 this yr luckily from september i will have 1) loves adverbs she crosses out alot of peoples coursework and adds alot more adverbs then needed it's scary (just thought i would add the comment for a bit of a laugh) i hope she never writes a book
     
  17. mistressoftheflies
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    mistressoftheflies Member

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    I agree with the majority that thinks adverbs should be used with caution. However, I don't find it necessary to cut them out completely. Action tags can be kind of redundant as well, imho.

    When the writing is clear the reader should grasp the meaning.
     

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