Monday, December 03, 2007

Activate those Adverbs! by Nelson Pahl

One of the sure signs that you’re reading an amateur, no matter how many books he or she has sold, is that hanging adverb in his/her dialog tag. This is, simply put, no-no numero uno in regards to fiction writing.

Adverbs are the lazy man’s way to penning fiction. The mission of any worthy writer (not merely a storyteller) is to eliminate as many adverbs as possible—in not only our dialog tags but also our narrative and our descriptive writing; we want to activate our writing.

We should never write: “And we both know you’re an expert,” she said sarcastically. That’s a lazy writer’s passage. Instead, we take the time to craft our message; we offer, instead, something sharper and more direct: Mary deadpanned, “And we both know you’re an expert.” The vision, the image, is much clearer in the second passage.

We don’t say, “He ran swiftly.” We say, “He sprinted.”
We don’t say, “She held him tightly.” We say, “She clenched him.”
We don’t say, “He looked at her angrily.” We say, “He glared at her.”

While this may seem like a minor thing, crafting one after another activated passage amid a 40,000 to 50,000-word story expedites your delivery, ensures that your voice is clear and concise, and enhances your overall style.

Instead of the lazy, muddled, inefficient, and amateurish adverb game…

Active it all!


To learn more about Nelson, his romance Bee Balms & Burdundy or his virtual blog tour, check out his website.


Jean said...

This is such great advice. Those dialogue adverbs drive me nuts. My favorite combinations are "ran quickly," "whispered softly" or "yelled loudly."

Thanks for the reminder of what not to do!

windycindy said...

You made me really think. There is a vast difference and what a huge difference it makes! Thanks for sharing.....Cindi

Sun Singer said...

Good advice. On the other hand, if I see every synonym in the book for the more common words, I'm going to start wishing the writer had put in an adverb here or there.

Best of luck with your book.


Cheryl said...

Great advice. Some books seem to be littered with adverbs, which weaken the action. I much prefer strong verbs.

Good luck on your tour.

Cheryl M.

Jean Hackensmith said...

Good luck on the tour, Nelson! I, too, am touring the Web today. In fact, my tour for “The Ultimate Passage” just started today. As well as an author, I'm also an editor for a small publishing company, so boy do I hear you on the adverbs! All aspiring authors are advised to follow your advice!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for all the nice comments.

My best to all of you.

Peace & Luv.


sydney molare said...

good suggestions.