Thursday, August 2, 2012
Adverbs are not your friends - Writers Mantra 10
This is probably one of the earliest Writers Mantras that ever came to me.
Adverbs are not your friends
Your adverbs may be masking poor verb choices. Consider the bland verb "ran." It doesn't convey much more than fast moving by foot. Contrast this verb with amble, bound, break, canter, dart, dash, drop, escape, fly, gallop, jog, lope, pace, thrash, rush, scamper, scuttle, spring, sprint, spurt, tear, trot, and whisk.
Each of these words conveys a distinct meaning that evokes something more than fast moving by foot.
Suppose you want your hero to get from Point A to Point B with great haste and urgency. He can't just "run" there. He might "quickly run" there, but is that as dramatic as if he "raced?" Or if it's a short distance, he "sprinted."
Because the drama is in your verbs, you want to choose the one with maximal impact that conveys your intent. Sure, your intent can be conveyed with an adverbial phrase. It will be easier to write, but it will be weaker.
Rack your brain for better verbs.
Think about what you're doing in the scene. Maybe the adverbs are there because you're telling, and not showing. Same for all your modifiers: adjectives and prepositional phrases. But these are mantras for another day.
Update: And the next three mantras are here.
And keep an eye open for a Big Announcement on Friday.