Monday, September 26, 2016

Adverb Hating Tonic

So adverbs get a lot of hate, especially the -ly ones, and worse than any, the ones on dialogue tags. A lot of good modern writers, Stephen King, James Patterson, and Brandon Sanderson among them, have argued against wide use of adverbs. Here are some dissenting opinions (and better advice):


In short, any word that is the wrong word should be avoided. Every word matters.


And you can make the argument that instead of using a weak verb and an adverb as a 'booster', it's better to use a strong verb that conveys meaning more succinctly.

SO, 
Just use the right word:




Who am I to argue against luminaries like King, Patterson, and Sanderson? Nobody, but I don't need to. They use adverbs in their books too, sometimes even on dialogue tags; and, sometimes, often, it's the right word.

My advice is simple. Be against dogma instead. When you write you own your words. Make them the right ones.

I did some analysis of other great writers. One of the greatest, most lyrical writers of the 20th Century is Virginia Woolf. Her first novel, Mrs. Dalloway, has in its first 18000 words:

34 suddenly
25 perfectly
24 really
16 presumably
13 merely
11 extraordinarily
11 directly
9 precisely
8 awfully
8 utterly
8 scarcely
8 slowly
7 gently
7 possibly
7 instantly
6 exactly
6 probably
6 easily
6 naturally
...

in short 714 adverbs outside dialogue. She also uses adverbs and adverbial clauses in her dialog tags.

Here is some of the dialogue:


“Good-morning to you, Clarissa!” said Hugh, rather extravagantly, for they had known each other as children. “Where are you off to?”


"rather extravagantly" is two adverbs and then an adverbial clause follows "for...children". That's a lot of distraction from "Good-morning to you, Clarissa!"



“Dear, those motor cars,” said Miss Pym, going to the window to look, and coming back and smiling apologetically with her hands full of sweet peas, as if those motor cars, those tyres of motor cars, were all HER fault.

"going to the window to look" is an adverbial clause

does she need "apologetically" there?

I would say yes. This reads well. The image bursts into your mind.

Some adverbs are fine. Really fine. Really. Really.

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