“You know what my creative writing professor used to say? ‘Every adjective is fifty cents and an adverb is a dollar.’ I’m thinking we should apply that standard to this class.” These were the words spoken by one of my creative writing professors years ago, and I still recall the looks of abject horror on all of my classmates’ faces. I was one of two students who frowned in bafflement. I was even more confused when the professor sniggered and pointed her pen at all of the jaw-dropped expressions in the room.
What I didn’t know then was that it is a common belief that adverb and adjectives are better used sparingly, if at all. My creative writing professor was not very good at explaining this to me when I tried to clarify what she meant by asking, “You mean we’re not allowed to use dollar words—big words?”
It wasn’t until I was in a script writing class that I understood what my previous instructor had been trying to get across.
You don’t need adverbs or adjectives to build a scene.
Oh sure, you can have them, they’re like that friend you’ve had since the second grade, who you really don’t share much in common with anymore, but you stay in contact with them because it’s not like you hate them. Plus, you kind of owe them for taking the blame that one time you went over to their house and ate all of the sweets in the candy dish.
The fact is though, that friend—that adjective and/or adverb—is just excess more than half the time.
Take for example these two sentences:
“Jody ran quickly past the swinging, wooden door, slid across the tile floor, and hurriedly went under the table.”
“Jody barreled past the swinging door, slid across the floor, and dove under the table.”
The first sentence is a mouthful. While it may be important to the plot later on that the door is “wooden” it really doesn’t need to be described right then, especially since the writer should be instilling a sense of action and the extra word slows down the sentence. Also note, how with just the right verbs the second sentence is concise and still gets the point across.
Informing others that novels and the like would/can do better with the minimal amount of adverbs and adjectives is nothing revolutionary. In fact, it’s quite boring and overdone, and those who attempt to force it on others can be quite the headache. Despite that, I bring this topic up, because that moment the light bulb went off in my head all I could think was, “Holy boxers, Batman! I need to try this out.” Thus, I wrote my debut novel “Turning Curse”.
So dedicated to testing out this new writing style, I would spend a half hour just flipping through a thesaurus to find verbs to replace my adverbs, and glare for hours at sentences as I argued with myself over whether I could improve them or not. In the end I don’t regret it. I feel the writing has a strength to it that many of my prior stories lacked. I would also recommend to others to take up the challenge, and cut back on adjective and adverbs—use your verbs to communicate emotion behind actions. If you don’t like it, you can always go back and sprinkle in a few adjectives and adverbs to make the style more to your liking.
For some writers, adjective and adverbs will be their best friends forever. For me, they’ll be that friend who I am pleasantly surprised to hear from on occasion. Until, you know, they remind me that I owe them for the whole candy dish incident.
Irresponsible was one word used to describe Prince Liam. Liam preferred fun-loving. After years of pulling pranks on his fellow nobles and ruining balls, Liam’s prospects for a bride are looking dim. At his wits’ end, Liam’s father arranges a marriage between Liam and his best friend Cordelia. She is the last person in the world Liam wants to marry. When Liam confesses this to her, she transforms Liam with a curse.
Now Liam must escape her clutches while breaking her spell, but he is trapped in her castle with no way to escape. His only hope is to persuade Cordelia’s servant Gabrielle to help him. However, Gabrielle has a secret of her own, and helping Liam is something she cannot do.
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Genre - YA Fantasy
Rating – PG-13
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