Ode to Adverbs by Angela Scott, the Reluctant Hook'er
Eradicate the ghastly adverb!
Beg for writerly repentance!
One goes easily unnoticed, forgivable.
But more cripples the senses.
They stab me deeply in my critic’s eye
Like lowly white picket fences.
They unleash my critic’s fiery tongue,
And I abhor the writer of such prose.
I hate the use of adverbs, you twit!
I thumb at you my nose.
Erase them, I plead of you.
Nothing good can be drawn from their use.
To write with unnecessary adverbs
Only tightens your newbie noose.
I have used several here,
An example to make a visionary point.
Adverbs are purely unnecessary
They only sadly disappoint.
Should you continue to write them,
And ignore my witty, yet insightful, ode.
Then it’s off with your head
For you’ve broken the Stephen King code!
Oh, my goodness! I write this stupid little poem in response to a book I just picked up (and subsequently sat back down) this morning. The over use of adverbs just about KILLED me. I kid you not.
On page 3 of the novel that shall remain nameless, I counted twelve adverbs: gravely, absently, delicately, calmly, pensively, firmly, lightly, ominously, deadly, quickly, sightlessly, silently.
Twelve! Twelve feakin' adverbs!
Ummmm . . . BOOM! (Head explodes).
That is pure insanity right there. The sad thing, this is a published book through a publishing house (albeit a small publisher, but still). What the heck? Where was the editor? Why didn’t someone say, “What the *bleep* are you doing here? Erase those you fool!”
Adverbs are a nasty thing. Just nasty. I’m not the only one who thinks this way either.
David Weedmark had this to say about adverbs, “Basically, in my opinion, any book with more than one adverb per page should have every adverb cut out, and then stapled to the author’s fingers.”
Extreme? Yes. And though I’m not a violent kind of gal, I’m thinking this could be a useful tactic in eradicating adverbs, the majority of them anyway, from novel pages. I mean, who doesn't know that adverbs suck and should be used at a minimum? Where had this writer been hiding? Jeez. Poor lady.
Stephen King, in his book On Writing, said the following, “ Adverbs are not your friends . . . Adverbs seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind . . . To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one in your yard, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then , my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions.”
Adverbs only “try” to beef up weak verbs, but fail in almost every case. It’s that simple. There’s really no usefulness to them (feel free to debate me on this if you like). But, once adverbs are eliminated and replaced with strong action verbs, the response to your writing will be incredible. I promise you this. It will not jar the reader out of the story, AND it will allow the reader to invest more of themselves into your fictional world. Isn’t that what every writer wants? I would hope so.
As for this poor author, I feel for her. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt and continued to read a little more of her novel, but the adverbs, even after page three, were thick and torturous. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't read any more. It hurts too much. She may have had a great story and concept, but the adverbs destroyed her novel. (To be fair, this was NOT a submission to our site for review. This was a book I won, myself, through a blogfest).
Don't let adverbs destroy your work. Just say no.
Okay, I thought a writing exercise for you might be fun (no boo’s, it totally could be).
I’d love to see how many adverbs you can jam into a 100 word paragraph. Let’s take the adverbs we so desperately want to use in our novels, but know we won’t because it’s against the law—the Stephen King law—and cram them into a paragraph as a way of saying goodbye to weak verbs for forever and HELLO to strong verbs from now on.
Go ahead and give it a try. Be creative. Who knows, there might be a prize involved. *Nods head and raises brows* There totally could be.