Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cassy's Corner- Adjectives and Adverbs

I scheduled this post yesterday to show up early today. I've been traveling today and this is the first chance I've had to log on. I found the file and am now reposting it. My apologies for the delay. Cassy

We all have been lectured that using adjectives and adverbs in excess, or even at all, is a sign of poor writing. I don’t know how many times I’ve read or heard, “show don’t tell.” Yet, many of the hugely successful writers use them—all the “ly” words and the flowerily descriptions. Of course they can get away with it; they are the big guys. But, really, do we need to put all the modifiers in the trash can?

I have been on a bit of a mission lately. I’m reading book after book across genres with an attempt to better understand what grabs me and what doesn’t. I’m on a self- constructed learning curve. Of course being by the pool in Tuscany doesn’t hurt the process. I even noticed that my dear husband worked through a “Nora” to understand what I’m fussing with. He said he skipped all the romance scenes, which makes me wonder what was really left over. I never asked him to read it, his choice.

But back to the point. Does one have to have thousands in sales to have permission to use an adjective?

I rewrote a scene yesterday. It was not over the top with description, but yes, there was a mention of the sky, the color of the sunflowers, and a sense of the breeze. I’m in Italy, how can you escape all of that? I then rewrote the scene and tried to get rid of the meandering prose. My protagonist fussed about the dilemmas facing her as the flowers did wave in the mild wind, without much comment on my part. Yuck. It didn’t feel the same.

I am not proposing that we write the flowery excessive lines that make one want to cringe. I am proposing that we allow our readers to join us on our adventure. And, that takes adjectives and adverbs to differentiate the average from the extraordinary.

When you write and then edit, do you find that you need to expunge the descriptors? Do your characters “think” outloud so your readers follow the train of thought? How do you create smell, taste, touch, fear, anxiety, desperation? Are there words that keep reappearing in your text that over time lose their punch?


Cozy in Texas said...

Margie Lawson has wonderful lecture notes that she calls Deep Edits. She uses different highlighters to color descriptions, emotions, dialog and more. It makes you look at a page and edit anything blocks that are too long. Descriptions can be broken up with dialog or internal thoughts but they need to be there. One of the comments I get over and over again about my books is that the reader loves the descriptions and feeling that they are sitting on a cliff in Cornwall or wandering through an old English village and if you're in Italy how can you not throw in sunflowers and beautiful countryside? I'm envious.

Cozy in Texas said...

oops, I meant any blocks that are too long.

Cassy Pickard said...

Cozy: Great input. I have done Margie's classes and they are great. Thanks for sharing. We all the help we can get and Margie is wonderful.

Liz Lipperman said...

I love internal dialogue. I write in third person, and I use it a lot. I also use a fair amount of adverbs, Sometimes, you really need one. But I have judged many contests where there are so many of them, I get dizzy.

As in all things in life, moderation is the key.

Have a great time in Italy, Cassy. Hopefully, you'll discover what you're trying to find out about yourself and your writing. It took Christine finally telling me I was a mystery author before I actually believed it.