Monday, September 13, 2010

Tip; Kicking out the Adverbs

Adverbs are usually not good for your novel. Nope. Nada.

You should usually get rid of them. Before you cling to your 'wearilies' and 'strangelies' and yell, "NO! Never! I love my adverbs!" or think "About time someone told me how to do this!" or just an indifferent read-through of this post--let me show you a few things that I have learned.

1) Beef up your verbs. (Yes, I just HAD to use that word) ;)

Consider the following sentence, that uses an adverb. "He walked hurriedly along the sidewalk." It's what I'd call 'an okay' sentence. But it could be better--and it 'tells'. How do you defeat the adverb, though, keeping the meaning of the sentence, describing the same idea, and 'showing'? You 'beef up' the verb. "He hurried along the sidewalk." Easy! And which one sounds better?

Here's a few more examples.

With adverb; "The man looked carefully around the room."
Without adverb; "The man peered around the room."

With adverb; "Sam walked carefully because of the acorns on the ground."
Without adverb; "Sam crept through the yard, mindful of the acorns littering the ground." (By the way, this could use some clarification, but I won't go through the editing process.)

2) Replace the Adverb

Replace the adverb with an adjective or some other word.

With adverb; "The man peered around the room cautiously."
Without adverb; "The man peered around the room, careful to stay hidden from all eyes."

Note that I didn't say 'careful to not be seen' there--I originally did (when I wrote this section of the post), but I realized that I had unknowingly stuck a 'not' adverb in there. :P So I rewrote it, and it looks better.

But sometimes you CAN use them. Yep, don't throw them all away yet. Consider the following sentence from my novel;

"Aron chose his words carefully."

There's an adverb in there! But look what happens when I try to replace it (since I can't really do anything else to the verb).

"Aron chose his words, careful to..." To what? Ah, but that would be telling. But say I do 'tell'; what does it look like then? "Aron chose his words, careful to keep all his information hidden."

It's a rather unwieldy sentence, and I think you will agree that the original sentence is better.

And there are other examples as well; "'I don't know,' he said wearily." It would probably be best to leave that sentence as it is. Say we change it, and look what we come up with. "'I don't know,' he said, weary from...' We'd have to go into an explanation of why he is weary which is telling. Not a good idea. :)


Jessica said...

What a great post Jake I really appreciate your wisdom and must honestly admit I never thought of those words with much care but shall in future.
BTW Could you say "Aron chose his words with care" ? Just a random thought.

Jake said...

Wisdom? LOL! :)

But I could have said that, yes. :D Thanks for pointing it out!

Isaac Permann said...

Hey, Jake? Just a random question but what is the goal you have for the word count in your third book Sadaar? (if you don't mind telling me)

Jake said...

Goal? I never really had any goal. :) But I suppose I was aiming for somewhere around 25,000-30,000 words at first...and above and beyond sits well with me! :D I still have no idea what's coming up--I have a lot of plot yet to cover.