Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Adverse Adverbs? ~Tanya Hanson

...the Holy Spirit will teach you ... what you ought to say. Luke 12:12


     Years ago, a movie about a hapless teacher in a summer-school class of misfits had me laughing out loud. One dork needing at least a D used the word “very” 197 times in a 200-word essay. So in my own classroom, the word “very” was Number One on my freshmen’s Do-Not-Do This In Your Writing list.
     Very. The little filler adverb used to enhance another descriptor.
     In romance writing these days, adverbs, even healthy full-bodied adverbs, seem to be something to avoid.  You know, those lovely words telling how or why or where. In the deeper Point of View, the reader wants to Feel, not to be told. So the tag, he said angrily, might become:  He smacked his hand on the table.
     Something like that. And I get it. (Truth is, I’m finding most speech tags better off if they become an action by the speaker, but that’s another topic.)
     Back to adverbs:  Do you think: In the tight boots, she walked clumsily to the tractor...is better off written as:  In the tight boots, she wobbled to the tractor.
     I can feel myself wobbling in awkward footwear, whereas in the “walked clumsily” I am the observer.
     Make sense?
     So...I checked through the short story I’m about to send to my editor. Yup. I found surprisingly spry in a description of an old man. Two definitely’s. One Quickly...One Seriously...Hands he shamefully ached to hold.
     I even came across a serendipitously askew in terms of a brown Stetson that’s crucial to the story. (Oh, the word is so lovely and so works.)
     I discussed this with my daughter, who graduated cum laude from one of the country’s top journalism schools. She said, "Mom, I’m always criticized that my writing is too flowery. I’m not the best source here."
     And so I come to you.
     What do you think about adverbs in general or mine in particular?
     Should I work on the ones I found in my latest WIP:
     Do adverbs make you nuts when you read them? Are they good when used sparingly? Do they make our works too flowery?
     Share your thoughts and ideas with me today!



http://tinyurl.com/pxwg2w7


Seeing Daylight, Book Seven in the Hearts Crossing Ranch series: A beautiful attorney widowed by a foolhardy man...a successful builder vanquishing guilt over his wife's death. Can they rebuild faith and find love enough to give each other and their kids a happy home together?

Come say howdy at www.tanyahanson.com. I'm also at Tanya Hanson, Author at Facebook and @TanyaHanson, twitter. I am multipublished in many genres and will soon begin a series for Middle Graders under a pen name, to honor my two little grandsons. The final novella set at Hearts Crossing Ranch will probably be out late 2015. It's a little hard to say good-bye to those ranch folks, but there are many more trails for me to follow.

31 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for telling us WHY we don't use adverbs. I always thought it was very odd that we'd eliminate an entire class of words in our writing. I mean, they're there for a reason, right?

    But now I know WHY. That all-showing deep point of view!

    In answer to your question: I don't know. I don't stop reading when I see an -ly word, but I do see your point about "wobbled" and "walked clumsily."

    Anyone else have an opinion?

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    1. I gotta admit, Angie, I think they do have a purpose....hmmm. Sparingly, maybe. LOL.

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  2. Agree ~ wobble is much better! Since learning about adverb no-no's, I have removed "very" from my vocabulary. But I think it's a mistake to remove all adverbs. Words like "definitely" work perfectLY (lol) in dialog and introspection. The key is moderation imho. Great post, Tanya, as usual. :)

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    1. Hi Dora, again, I agree. Just not cram our writing full of them. I examined my wip and the ones I used (during feverish bouts of writing...well,) they do seem to work. We'll see in the long run if they make the cut. :)

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  3. Oh, my goodness! Don't we use one in the title of this blog? :)

    That wobbled thing was a great example, Tanya. I think new writers are told to avoid adverbs (among other rules) so often that it's a knee-jerk reaction to avoid them all. As is also said, we have to know when to break the rules.

    I don't know about being flowery, but I think the grammar police will cut us some slack if we use a couple in a manuscript - kind of like that five miles over the speed limit thing. :)

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  4. Hear ya, Sandra. I mean, adverbs exist for a reason! Your comparison of the five miles is making me smile.

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  5. Not all adverbs are bad and some can add a rhythm or beat to a sentence. Consider, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." That sentence wouldn't have the same impact without the adverb frankly.
    .

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    1. You're so right, Margaret. That is the best line ever, so unbelievably unforgettable :) Thanks so much for posting today! xo.

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  6. Some of my favorite books, and favorite authors use adverbs occasionally and I've not even noticed, honestly. If I'm totally involved in the story, a sprinkling of adverbs certainly don't bother me. But, it's it loaded with them, and I'm not engrossed in the story, that's different. I've read so many books with different styles of writing, as long as I'm enjoying the read, all is good!

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    1. HI Charlene, I so hear you. I sometimes re-read a book from long ago, and although the "style" is different from now, I still adore the re-read. It's like a diet, I think....okay to splurge once in a while. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. Yes, I agree. Used in moderation adverbs are fine. Consider them the croutons on the salad. ; )

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    1. I love this analogy, Robena! Sometimes they just do work, ya know! Thanks for the post today. xoxox

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  8. Love, love, love your wobble example. So VERY helpful. :-)

    Too many LY words can be bad, but I hope you manage to keep serendipitously askew.

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    1. LO, Terri. I so debated it but it made the cut when I submitted the story yesterday...and my editor is pretty awesome and cooperative. I'll let keep you informed. xo

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  9. Nothing is verboten in creative writing, surely?

    Academic whim drives most of these pronouncements, which in my humble opinion, need perspective.

    An accurately placed adverb is just as powerful as a supreme adjective. But for any writer, it is a matter of how they want to tell their story. If your audience like it replete with adverbs, its great, doing the job it was designed to do and to hell with the critics!

    From a writing perspective however, I'd say it is cool to push at personal boundaries/acquired style of writing.

    You do that already by changing genres, so if its something that can fit with what you want to convey, hey why not have some fun with it? :)

    Nick xx

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    1. I so agree, Nick, and I am so happy to see you here today, my friend! I am starting to write Middle Grade (ages 9-12) stories and indeed, it's quite different from romance. (Well, duh.) Writers do need to tell their story, but sometimes a genre has rules. Fun to learn new things. xo

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  10. I hit the wrong button while moderating. Caroline Clemmons left the following comment:

    Tanya, adverbs don't bother me except as an addition to a tag, such as the example you used: "he said sparingly." I almost never use "said" because I prefer action or internalization. Obviously, when not overused, adverbs have a use in our writing. But not in an attribution!

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    1. Hi Caroline, ti's so funny. I had an editor once, whom I absolutely adore and wants me to write for her new house (Oh heavens, there's not enough time!) who wanted only "said" or "asked." I remember holding the line for a "he drawled." I guess that's why I gravitated more to an action rather than a speech tag. At an RWA worship early on, maybe ten years ago, the presenter handed out a sheet with about a billion speech tags for writers to use. They So stand out...:"bleated" "howled" "barked" ...lots of animal sounds LOL. And stuff like "declared" "wondered" "inquired". Too formal and overwrought for me. Thanks so much for the comment! xo

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  11. I like deep POV as much as the next reader, but not every scene/moment/interaction is worthy of deep POV. Sometimes your character just needs to cross the street quickly, not zig-zag through a hairline fracture in the wall of oncoming traffic. ;)

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  12. Laughing out loud...I so hear you. Sam. It can get weary-fying being so emotionally involved all the time. If there's such a word. Yeah, let's get there already! Thanks so much for stopping in today! xoxoxo.

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  13. Anyone who speaks about writing in absolute terms "you can't ever do this and you must always do that" is bonkers. There are no absolutes. As I heard again this week at RWA14, the reader doesn't care about good grammar, overall. What they care about is a story that sweeps them away.

    Except for the word "very". It's a weak word. Even my dad told me to never use it.

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    1. Hi Christine, yes, the story must rule, for sure. But I am a former teacher who believes good grammar rules can be learned. IMO a writer who doesn't learn the craft and building blocks of good writing is lazy. An editor who doesn't know, or who can't coach/teach, should move along to another profession LOL.

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  14. Tanya,
    I agree that adverbs should be used sparingly, and the example of your WIP perfectly illustrates how they slip under the radar for the best of us. But I feel, at least in romances, we can get away with using them a tad more because they are 'flowery' and we're generally writing to set a mood as well as tell a story. If there are no adverbs, anywhere, I feel the writing becomes a bit stale. JMO. But we must please our editors, so that dictates our writing as well.

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    1. Hi Kristy, thanks for the post. I so agree...and as Margaret said earlier, Rhett's "frankly" changes the nuance of the whole statement.

      Everybody has posted such great comments today! I so appreciate you all taking the time.

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  15. Great blog, Tanya, and an excellent reminder to keep our work active. Cleaning out the excessive adverbs is a start in the right direction. As a sinner of adverb use, I speak from my own experience. Everything there is to do wrong, I've done it.

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  16. Hi Sarah, so good to see you here. I think we all agree they have their place once in a while...but too much is too much LOL. I won't give up on my serendipitously! Xoxox

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  17. So now I must edit my book, once again. As a new writer, I never heard this topic addressed and am guilty. Your wobbled example explained this perfectly (whoops). Thanks

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    1. Hi Delaina, glad we could help ya out a little. The first manuscript is always a bit fearsome. I've had many wonderful people help me out over the years, and some who are still my rocks! I am so honored to read your comment, and so happy to see you here!

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  18. What great comments! I can only echo others in saying that used sparingly, they're an invaluable ingredient in a writer's spice rack. Poorly or overused, they can spoil the meal. Thanks for the great post, Tanya!

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    1. Hi Kady, your spice-rack analogy is absolutely perfect! Thank YOU! So appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

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