|AN ADJECTIVE CASTS LIGHT |
ON THE SUBJECT
TOO MANY COULD BE BLINDING.
“As to the adjective, when in doubt strike it out.” ~ Mark Twain
There are few writers who aren’t exorcising adverbs from their work.
Adverbs are being cast out of manuscripts no matter what form they take.
Manner – furiously, obnoxiously, intensely
Place – here, somewhere, upstairs
Frequency – never, often, always
Time – after, soon, then
Purpose – to avoid, since, so that
Adverbial phrases usually line up in that order.
Mortimer waited sadly in his room three times every day at each shift’s end in case his parent called in to see him.
I wouldn’t usually use more than three phrases in the same sentence.
Every day at each shift’s end, Mortimer waited sadly in his room in case his parent called in to see him.
But… are adverbs really the problem?
It could be the adjective’s greatest trick was to convince the writer that adverbs were the real problem while they ran amok through every sentence spreading systemic rot.
ASK YOURSELF, ADJECTIVE, ARE YOU REALLY NECESSARY?
There is a trinity of questions you can use to balance the worth of any adjective is it:
A large, powerful whale swam up to the edge of the boat.
Whale always conveys the image of a large and powerful creature. Whales don’t come in small.
I put the plate on the flat table.
The adjective is loitering if the image is already conveyed in the noun.
The adjective should surprise or explain how the thing is different from the reader’s expectations. It must improve the image for the reader if it doesn’t then it must be
cast crossed out.
The excited toddler ran into the path of the metal car driven by bleary-eyed doctor.
An unnecessary advert can jar the reader.
The misplaced adjective is… The Reaper of the Narrative Voice
When I leave school, and I can pronounce the words in the anti-spell shields, I’m going to become a puissant Witch Slayer.
The right word used by the wrong person is just wrong.
MISS HARDBROOM The Worst Witch ~ Jill Murphy
“Before Mildred had the time to reply, the door crashed open to reveal their form-mistress, Miss Hardbroom standing in the doorway wrapped in a black dressing-gown, with a lantern in her hand. She was a tall, terrifying lady with a sharp bony face and black hair scragged back into such a tight knot that her forehead looked quite stretched. ”
The introduction to Miss Hardbroom has only one spare adjective.
SNAPE Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ~ JK Rowling.
CH 7 “… a professor with greasy black hair, a hooked nose, and sallow skin.”
CH 8 “Snape finished calling the names and looked up at the class. His eyes were black like Hagrid’s, but they had none of Hagrid’s warmth. They were cold and empty and made you think of dark tunnels.”
JK Rowling writes Snape’s description simply on page 94 but, with imagery and dialogue, takes the reader deeper on page 102.
The First Great Rule, when editing like an exorcist, must be:
Adjectives, I command you to obey me to the letter, I cast you out.
HOW DO YOU CHECK YOU ARE NOT WRITING TOO MUCH INTO YOUR DESCRIPTIONS IN YOUR WIP?