1. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dirty Words: Adverbs

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Catrin Lewis, Aug 4, 2016.

    Tonight I find out that to use adverbs is "telling," and as we all know, telling is bad.

    I should have known that about the little buggers already, shouldn't I?

    So now, in order to avoid this sin, I have to take my 143,000 word novel and ramp it up to at least 150,000 words, just to get rid of the obscenities. I mean, the adverbs.

    :superfrown:

    :superthink:

    Since I'm writing in close third, what I'm more likely to do is consider whether my POV character would "think" the adverb or not, and revise accordingly.
     
  2. SweetOrbMace
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    SweetOrbMace Member

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    Please don't take out all the adverbs.

    They are just another tool, sometimes appropriate sometimes not. I like to think when people give the "rules or writing" they meant to write "guidelines" but are just atrocious spellers.

    On the matter of telling vs. showing, I think the fact that you feel you'll have to add 7,000 words to your novel is interesting. Sometimes it is better to be succinct with a telling word than prolix with a showing sentence, no?
     
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  3. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Please revise your post in accord with no longer wanting to use adverbs. Or don't, because yeah, stupid 'rules': telling is fine, adverbs aren't evil, everything in its right place, all in moderation, etc.
     
  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    What they said. Adverbs are fine in the right place, just like telling is fine in the right place. Do you have any idea how exhausting it would be to read a novel entirely in 'show'? EXHAUSTING.
     
  5. Ziggy.
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    Ziggy. Member

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    Adverbs should be use sparingly though, like exclamation marks. You shouldn't use them overtly, because it feels more like telling but telling is sometimes key in a story too. Just don't bog the reader down with them.
     
  6. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I get hopeless lost when people start talking about nouns, verbs, adverbs, etc, etc, etc. I have a complete blindness as to their meaning and uses.

    For that reason I had to go and look up the meaning of 'adverb' and I'm still not sure I understand.

    From what I can gather from the examples I found, I suspect my novel is cram packed with them.

    Put a gun to my head and ask me to name all the verbs in this post, and my brains would soon be splattered all over the wall.
     
  7. Ziggy.
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    Ziggy. Member

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    And adverb is just simply put, a way to change or emphasise the action of a doing word. He ran fast. He punched angrily. He walked slowly.
     
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  8. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I understand now, thanks, but I still couldn't tell you if I over use them in my writing.
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    use sparingly, use them overtly, etc.

    (Would you have put two exclamation marks in the same paragraph?)
     
  10. Ziggy.
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    Ziggy. Member

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    You done got me there.
     
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  11. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Hitler 'maliciously' tried to take over the world.
    #adverbsareevil
    #heresyourproof

    Also, all this talk of 'showing and telling' should stay between individuals and their shrinks when discussing how the 3rd grade ruined the rest of our their lives.
     
  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    The thing with "over-use" is that it's going to be a judgement call, and that makes it subjective, a matter of taste. Some people like adverbs more than others...

    I'd say it's usually a good idea to substitute more precise verbs rather than adding to a vaguer verb. She sprinted rather than she ran quickly. (Or she jogged rather than she ran slowly). But sometimes there really isn't a more precise verb to use.
     
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  13. Ziggy.
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    Ziggy. Member

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    It really is a subjective thing. Adverbs can be great if used to emphasise some sort of action that needs to be done quick. Nobody's going to look at you and go "Oh, well this author sucks because they used adverbs." I like showing, not telling, but to tell is still an important function of story. Adverbs when related to speech is something you should avoid.

    "You stupid bitch," he said angrily.
    That's just lazy.

    "You stupid bitch," he said through gritted teeth and a red face. It's just sort of different. Adverbs relating to action are just that, concise, and they give you simple information. But for some reason I feel different when it comes to adverbs relating to speech; it's lazy, and feels pompous at times. But that's subjective again.
     
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  14. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    That's what I came to this thread to say. I was appalled at myself when I first recognized how often I do this. The non-adverb description of dialogue or speech will almost always be stronger than the adverb description. Your example is a great demonstration of that.

    I think the major mistake people commit regarding adverbs is just the sheer repetition of them.

    Example:
    He ran quickly across the lawn, panting heavily and looking nervously around for the beast, which growled viciously.

    Yuck.

    A better sentence:
    He ran across the lawn, panting from exertion. He darted his eyes from one side of the yard to the other trying to locate the beast, whose menacing growls grew louder.
     
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  15. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, what I can say, is that for those two examples, I would have used 'sprinted' and 'jogged', so maybe I'm naturally inclined not to use adverbs.
     
  16. Ziggy.
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    Ziggy. Member

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    God damn, that second sentence just reads a thousand times better.
     
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  17. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    The problem - with these examples - is that jogging has a definite leisure-sport implication, so that running slowly is what a group of soldiers may do to get to battle faster than merely walking or marching, rather than jogging; or they may run at a steady jog-trot; either way, they're not engaging in anything to do with leisure. And sprinting isn't exactly merely running fast; I don't think anyone would deny that Mo Farrah runs fast, but there's no way even he can sprint for 10k!
     
  18. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Jogging doesn't say leisure to me, and nobody can 'run quickly' for 10k either :D
     
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  19. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    "The soldiers jogged forward, their eyes scanning the surroundings for danger." - I feel like that works?

    And if the "ran quickly" substitute shouldn't be "sprint", there's probably another word that does mean what you want it to mean? Like @Tenderiser, I'm having trouble picturing the pace someone would use to quickly cover 10K, so I don't know what word I'd use to describe it. If there truly is no word, then, sure, ran quickly may be the best option. But I feel like there's probably another...
     
  20. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mo Farrah sets record-breaking times. That's not the same as running fast. The 100m guys run fast, Mo Farrah just sets good lap times.
     
  21. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Who is the monumental dope who told you this? (Please say Stephen King! Oh, please, please, PLEASE say Stephen King!) :p

    Is it just me, or is anybody else mildly offended by "rules" like this one? Whoever tells you rules like this is treating you like a child. Adverbs (and semicolons and such) are simply tools in a writer's toolbox. Telling a writer not to use them is like telling a child, "Be careful! You're too little to use the power drill - it's dangerous and you might hurt yourself!" Whoever tells you rules like this is telling you that you don't know how to write. That you have no sense of when to use an adverb and when to leave well enough alone. That you simply aren't skilled enough to write your own prose your own way; that you will never rise above the rank of able seaman and so will never be captain of your own ship.

    Your story is yours. You are the captain. There is no one else. It's up to you to learn to write as well as you can, adverbs or no, showing or telling, whatever.

    All writing will have strengths and flaws. Too many people only focus on the "flaws" because they're easier to identify. Robertson Davies called these people "flawyers." He said you could ask these people about acknowledged masterpieces, like War and Peace, and they'd say, "Oh, it's a mass of flaws." Well, who among us wouldn't rather have written War and Peace, flaws and all, and still be in print over a century after first publication, rather than some "flawless" piece of crap that's forgotten after the first printing? And who would tell Leo Tolstoy, "Okay, sure, you wrote War and Peace, but MY forgotten piece of trash didn't have any adverbs. Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!"

    I hate all these stupid "rules." :supermad::supermad:
     
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  22. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Over 200 dirty words.

    Try to strike a balance of show and tell if you can.
     
  23. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    "Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the blind obedience of fools" - Harry Day Royal Flying Corps (as quoted by Douglas Bader in Reach for the sky).
     
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  24. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    [​IMG]
     
  25. Dr. Mambo
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    Dr. Mambo Active Member

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    He does it all the time. Pet Sematary in particular is littered with dialogue adverbs. "He said provocatively." "She whispered softly." I was amazed how lazy the first 50 pages of that book are.

    And I'm speaking as something of a fan.
     

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