Day Eight: Death to Adverbs
Today’s Prompt: Go to a local café, park, or public place and write a piece inspired by something you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.
Thoughtful writers create meaning by choosing precise words to create vivid pictures in the reader’s mind. As you strive to create strong imagery, show your readers what’s going on; avoid telling them.
Today’s twist: write an adverb-free post. If you’d rather not write a new post, revisit and edit a previous one: excise your adverbs and replace them with strong, precise verbs.
The sin of telling often begins with adverbs*. Author Stephen King says that, for writers, the road to hell is paved with adverbs:
The adverb is not your friend.
Adverbs…are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind….With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.
Instead of using adverbs as a crutch, rely on strong verbs to convey emotional qualities that imbue your writing with nuance, allowing the reader to fire up their imagination. Consider, for example:
“She walked proudly out the door.”
Remove the adverb “proudly” and replace it with a strong verb to denote how she walked:
She strutted out the door.
She sashayed out the door.
She flounced out the door.
Each example connotes the emotion with which “she” moved, creating a more vivid picture than “proudly” ever could.
Note we’re not advocating the eradication of all adverbs all the time. The goal of this exercise is to place a constraint on adverb use to help you to focus on using strong, precise verbs in your writing.
15 min free writing.
I’m a day behind with my daily writing. Not sure about what I have written below, but as an exercise it will do!
From my feet to the top of my head, my breath rippled back and forth as the soothing voice of Judy, my mindfulness coach guided me to relax. my body light, flowed upwards towards the celling. My fingers slivered outwards as my whole body followed like fluid. I am no longer flesh, just particles, dust. I am expanding beyond the confines of the room, wall melt, allowing me to shimmer in the sunlight No longer bound by my physical self I dance high up in the air. A gust of wind whips me up and further up I flow and flourish.
A call from far away I swoosh down, making a splash in the sea, silver fish scoop me along their tide as I sparkle in the deep. Splurging downwards I hit the sandy bed, denting as gust of fragments fly. I drill and screw as fire engulfs. Fiery flames, lick, and tug me to the core. From far, far off a voice calls, I surge back to the earths surface, rushing to greet the sound that cries for my return, water flushes, sparks fly as I spin. Dizzy dancing dust solidifies to flesh, raging back towards my bed, a thudding thump I am back, the voice, Judy, wraps me whole. I am solid, back in the confines of my bed.