Monday, September 14, 2015

Friend or Foe? Adverbs: a wordsmith workshop

This post is Part 2 of a series to augment the Tips for Writing Fiction available for free download. Start with Part 1 here.

This and other writing workshops are gathered in my Workshops Directory for you to explore.

Find more guest-inspired content in my Guest Directory.

In Part 1 of this series, I connected with author and blogger Jocelyn Crawley. We soon collaborated on this guest post for her now-extinct literary blog. I originally wrote this piece in November 2014, and it has been reposted here with permission.

One of reading's greatest joys is stretching the imagination and breathing life into the world described on the page. Readers can't do this without good, descriptive composition.

But the writer's adage, "Cut your adverbs," asserts that description profanes the imagination, hobbling a reader's immersion in the scene. Readers slogging through cumbersome, clumsy manuscripts that wind across beleaguered sentences with appended prepositional phrases and no clear predicates - they get tired. And adverbs aren't the only culprit.

Syntactically, we combine a noun phrase and verb phrase to make an English sentence. Each component contains either a noun or a verb, and various descriptors - articles, modals, adjectives, adverbs, and assorted phrases or clauses. Hierarchically, the required noun and verb outrank all added descriptors, even the structural ones.

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High-impact nouns and verbs form the pillars of your sentence, festooned with decorative and non-integral appendages.

If your manuscript would deflate without descriptors propping it up, examine the unadorned words forming the skeleton of your piece. While not all description is bad, weak nouns and verbs require additional descriptors to come alive, whereas more precise synonyms stand alone.

In my Tales of the Known World saga, I streamline my descriptors and sculpt my momentum using this principle. To enhance your writing style, vivify your own prose with specificity.

That's it for this post! Check out the latest writing workshops for more.

Download Tips for Writing Fiction here, or start your adventure below.

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