1. Rague
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    Rague New Member

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    No adverbs or adjectives, period.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rague, Jun 21, 2013.

    I just got some arguably bad advice: try forfeiting adverbs and adjectives when you write and just use stronger nouns, it'll make your story better. Adjectives and adverbs are signs of a weak writer trying to make their writing pretty.

    Now, I understand that saying "the refrigerator door slammed loudly" or going into massive yarns about hair color can be off-putting, but...

    Is it actually possible? Is there a fiction short story, or novel, written by some author with skills far superior to my own, who got away with telling an interesting story while avoiding adverbs/adjectives like the plague?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Adverbs can be an indication of weak writing. They aren't automatically indicators of it, but they're often a good sign, and beginning writers often fall into them and end up with weak writing. So if you have a lot of adverbs in your work, it's at least worth looking at.

    Getting rid of adjectives is just silly, and in my view that advice should be disregarded.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This sounds like someone who has taken a time-worn bit of common advice and misunderstood it to its extreme permutation. Adverbs should be eschewed when possible. They are the harbingers of the Tell. But adjectives?
     
  4. Mithrandir
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    Mithrandir Contributing Member

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    I wonder about adverbs. I try to avoid them, yes, but in some cases they're useful. For instance, you have a goat some distance away. It's bleating really loudly. How do you convey the volume of the goat's cries without using a adverb?
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The bleating of the goats reverberated to the end valley. Desmond realized they must be in terrible trouble.

    They cannot always be eschewed, of course, but when they can, they should. They rob the writer of show.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Of course, do that enough and you may wind up with a word count problem. :eek:
     
  7. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    Fuck the adverbs. But adjectives can be used, however, watch which ones you use. Examples include:
    "The cold ice melted"
    you dont need cold.

    "Isla awaken on the wet muddy shore near the river."
    You can omit wet and muddy because the noun shore is strong enough to convey that.

    "The sunlight shined over tall twisted jungle trees with fat long branches sticking through the tall thick grassy ground."

    "Isla found a small water puddle"
    You can omit small and water because

    pud·dle (pdl)
    n.
    1.
    a. A small pool of water, especially rainwater.
     
  8. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    Did this advice come from a minimalist writer, such as Raymond Carver? If so, not interested. Minimalist writing has its place, but I find it much more interesting to see some variety. Agree on the adverbs (though, as others have said, they have a distinct place and use), but most definitely not on the adjectives. A sprinkle of colour makes the writing far more uplifting than grey prose.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Moderation on the adverbs but there's no reason to be anal about it. Too many do sound purple prosy.

    I don't see why adjectives are problematic, again, unless you are using them poorly. ;)
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    ^This! ^This! ^Thisthisthisthisthis!!!!
     
  11. Erasmus B. Dragon
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    Erasmus B. Dragon Member

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    After reading this I took another look at the passage I just wrote and realized I'd used two adverbs. I like the way the paragraphs read, though. What do you think?

    Any suggestions for ditching the adverbs here?
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I only see one. Gravelly is being used as an adjective here. The cautiously can just be dropped altogether, if you wished. It's not adding much here.

    P.S. You missed using the subjunctive correctly in the fourth sentence. This is clearly First Person, so I don't know if that's intentional or not...
     
  13. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Wreybies. "Cautiously" adds nothing, and I don't think you need anything else there. Also, adverb or adjective, "gravelly" doesn't add anything to my understanding. To me, sarcasm is sarcasm. Besides, "Rough night?" doesn't come off to me as all that sarcastic. Rather sympathetic, which I somehow don't think you're aiming for, here. "Pleasant evening?" Or, better, "Solve the world's problems, did we?" Now, that's sarcastic.
     
  14. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    All writing should be as clean and concise as possible. Superfluous adjectives and adverbs do nothing but drain a story of its life.
    Also, when using adjectives, don't get carried away and pick the fancier or more obscure one over the more commonplace but better-suited one.
     
  15. Erasmus B. Dragon
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    Erasmus B. Dragon Member

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    Gravelly was supposed to describe his voice, rather than his tone, perhaps gruff would work better. The sarcasm was supposed to be in the understatement of the situation. I think I will change 'gravelly sarcasm' to 'gruff understatement'. And I'm ditching 'cautiously'. Thanks :)
    Time to go back and see if I used any other adverbs I can ditch.
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Deciding which adjectives are superfluous is the issue, though, and largely style-dependent. If you write like Vladimir Nabokov or Lawrence Durrell, you're going to have a lot more description than if you write like Lee Child. It is certainly possible to write a very well-crafted and engaging story that is heavy on description.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Absolutes are always wrong.
     
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  18. Rafiki
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    Rafiki Active Member

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    I edited the above quote to show how I would phrase the passage.

    I've found that the fewer words used the easier something is to read. If that's minimalist, then so be it. Adjectives and adverbs are far too easy, and so it's a struggle not to use them. As such, my second draft usually involves a rather vigorous round of cutting, typically resulting in a massive drop in the overall word count.

    Good luck, and keep on keepin on.

    Edit:

    You're missing something crucial: why is it important for his voice to be gruff, or gravely, or sarcastic? The core point of cutting adjectives is to remove extra information. Just say the words, let the reader decide for themselves if it's sarcastic or not.
     
  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    To me, this is a case where you should be showing rather than telling (just make what he says either sarcastic or an understatement and let the reader figure it out). Spoon-feeding the reader is usually a bad choice.
     
  20. Michael Shaw
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    Michael Shaw Member

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    The way my brother described this whole topic has stuck with me. Granted, he is not an author, but his advice was helpful in that it didn't go to either extreme. He said "Don't just tell me, show me." In other words, if you want to say someone was sad about something that happened, you probably don't want to just say "he was sad." You could paint a picture of his facial expressions or his body posture. I think visualization is important. You communicate the adjective sad by painting word pictures, you show what the person looked like. Does this mean that adjectives will be absent? No. But it should reduce the number of "lazy adjectives" in your writing.
     
  21. Rafiki
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    Rafiki Active Member

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    Hey! Look! That guy said things! You should listen to that guy.
     
  22. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    Use everything in just the right dose. Don't know the dose from first blush? Try it again and edit it. I would suggest writing the story out the first time, and worrying, later, about getting rid of adverbs. As to adjectives, it'd be a ___ world if they were gone.
     
  23. Sheriff Woody
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    Sheriff Woody Active Member

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    Ditching adverbs for stronger verbs is almost always a good idea. Helps paint a better picture.

    For example, a meteorite can fall quickly, or it can plummet. Two very different images for the same action.
     
  24. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    As a rule, I try to replace adverbs with stronger verbs in the second draft (in the first draft, I'm just trying to get it on page). I try to ensure that all adjectives promote the mood I want (assuming we're talking of fiction)..
     
  25. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What we should all be after here is not slavish adherence to rules, or even what seems to be reasonable advice; rather, it is mastery. I don't mean we should all be geniuses, but we should be aware of the tone we're looking for - the voice on the page - and how to achieve that tone. And not all stories demand the same tone. Lush, ambitious prose, like Nabokov's or Saul Bellow's or Virginia Woolf's, has its inassailable place in fiction. Most of the wonder of James Joyce's work is in his use of language for a bewildering variety of effects. Who would want to read Ulysses written in the style of Raymond Chandler? On the other hand, The Big Sleep would have been laughable had it been written by Joyce.

    Decide what kind of story you're writing, and use all the skill you can muster to select the words, sentence lengths and rhythms, paragraph structures, and so on that will convey to the reader the emotion and meaning you're aiming for. If that means using adverbs and adjectives, so be it. When you've developed enough skill - enough mastery - you'll know which ones to cut and which ones to leave in.

    Removing all the adverbs will not automatically improve a story. Knowing exactly when and where to use them will. Train your ear, trust your ear, and toss out the rule.

    Use the Force, Luke.
     
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