Friday, May 13, 2011

Adverbs are the Devil?

I'm quickly learning that adverbs are the bane of writers. I've heard no-so-quiet rumblings that adverbs are to be avoided at almost all costs. I didn't believe it. How can, roboticly, cautiously, tenderly, violently, be sooo bad? I love them.

But I've learned at conferences, books, and in my online wanderings that adverbs can be a sign of weak, immature, lazy writing. Suddenly I have to look at my work differently?

Okay I get the idea that a strong verb is better than a week verb + an adverb. Example:

The crowd cheered loudly...
The crowd exploded...

I get that. I do. But where I get confused is:

If you want keep your writing concise aren't adverbs useful? Isn't it tighter to say, "She slipped silently into the hungry darkness." As opposed to, "With faint footfall, alerting no one, she slipped into the hungry darkness." Maybe the second is better? I don't know.

Side note: I'm currently reading a book littered with adverbs...and I really like it...the book and the adverbs :)


The Bullas said...

Excuse me! You are awesome! Thank you for getting this up and running! I really enjoyed the post as well and I have to hand it to you, I agree with you on the adverb thing. I'm not ready to throw them out completely either! Wonderful beginning to a wonderful blog! Cheers Partner!

Sara Bulla

Amy Dahlke said...

Haha, what a great post to start us off! I was also surprised to hear this. I've heard something similar about "-ing" words, too. For me, that's even harder sometimes. I can't wait to see where this blog takes us!

Angie Cothran said...

Who makes up these stupid "Rules" anyway? I've never heard about the -ing words. That is ridiculous. Do they want us to leave our poor little nouns and verbs to do all the work? These rule makers are sadistic.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

I'm with you on this! But I have seen adverbs overdone in a published book and it wasn't pretty. I think the trick is finding a balance between adverbs and action-packed verbs like you described.

"With faint footfall she slipped into the hungry darkness," isn't so bad, right? "alerting no one" isn't really necessary to convey the meaning of the sentence. But this is where critique partners are invaluable! They see these things in my work when I've convinced myself there's no other, better way to say it.

My favorite online resource for synonyms or exciting ways of saying bland things is Angela Ackerman's THE BOOKSHELF MUSE. She and Becca Puglisi have compiled several thesauruses to solve the "he said bombastically" problem. If that even is a problem. I may have just invented it. :)

Angie Cothran said...

I have never heard of that site. Genius! I am adding it to my resources.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Angie, I totally overdo -ing words. Let me give you an example from my story:

"There’s only this burning tingle enlivening me—sustaining me—as the man before me brings an ancient weapon slicing through the air toward my chest."

Or worse:

"I make my path serpentine, expecting him to step in front of me at any moment—out of nowhere—to end my terror." <--this structure (I ____, ______-ing _______ _______.) is a crutch for me. I use it too often. I guess anything we use too often is bad, even if it sounds poetic once.

p.s. Awesome! We are totally on here at the same time. :)

Angie Cothran said...

I think if it's your characters voice you can get away with a multitude of sins. The problem is when the author narrates the story instead of the character. Then your in trouble. I have this problem.

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