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Stephen King and the Adverb

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King argues for simplicity in writing. Here he attacks the adverb:

“The other piece of advice I want to give you before moving on to the next level of the toolbox in this: The adverb is not your friend.

“Adverbs, you will remember … are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind. … With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

“Consider the sentence He closed the door firmly. It’s by no means a terrible sentence (at least it’s got an active verb going for it), but ask yourself if firmly really has to be there. You can argue that it expresses a degree of difference between He closed the door and He slammed the door, and you’ll get no argument from me . . . but what about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before He closed the door firmly? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, isn’t firmly an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?

“Someone out there is now accusing me of being tiresome and anal-retentive. I deny it. I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, 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. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late.

“I can be a good sport about adverbs, though. Yes I can. With one exception: dialogue attribution. I insist that you use the adverb in dialogue attribution only in the rarest and most special of occasions . . . and not even then, if you can avoid it. Just to make sure we all know what we’re talking about, examine these three sentences:

“Put it down!” she shouted.
“Give it back,” he pleaded, “it’s mine.”
“Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,” Utterson said.

“In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions:

“Put it down!” she shouted menacingly.
“Give it back,” he pleaded abjectly, “it’s mine.”
“Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,” Utterson said contemp­tuously.

“The three latter sentences are all weaker than the three former ones, and most readers will see why immediately. “Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,” Utterson said contemptu­ously is the best of the lot; it is only a cliche, while the other two are actively ludicrous. Such dialogue attributions are sometimes known as ‘Swifties,’ after Tom Swift, the brave inventor-hero in a series of boys’ adventure novels written by Victor Appleton II. Appleton was fond of such sentences as “Do your worst!” Tom cried bravely and “My father helped with the equations,” Tom said modestly. When I was a teenager there was a party-game based on one’s ability to create witty (or half-witty) Swifties. “You got a nice butt, lady,” he said cheekily is one I remember; another is “I’m the plumber,” he said, with a flush. (In this case the mod­ifier is an adverbial phrase.) …

“Some writers try to evade the no-adverb rule by shooting the attribution verb full of steroids. The result is familiar to any reader of pulp fiction or paperback originals:

“Put down the gun, Utterson!” Jekyll grated.
“Never stop kissing me!” Shayna gasped.
“You damned tease!” Bill jerked out.

“Don’t do these things. Please oh please. The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said.”

This article was originally published at Delanceyplace.com. Read more here.

Interested in reading more? Buy On Writing here.

J.K. Rowling on Anxiety and Depression

So I love this story. Not just for the awesome and loving advice coming from someone who has inspired so many people and changed so many lives, but because the people who reach out to Ms. Rowling feel her stories so deeply that it gives new meaning to their mental afflictions.

On Anxiety:

"I'm a Gryffindor but my anxiety keeps me from being a true Gryffindor a lot recently," the fan wrote. "Am I still a Gryffindor despite that?"

On Depression:

"Could you please teach me how to scare the dementors that have been living under my bed?" the fan wrote on Twitter. "I'm tired of being sad all the time."

To which Ms. Rowling replies (on anxiety):

And J.K.'s response was almost as wise as Dumbledore's would be.

And depression:

JKR wrote back just 10 minutes later, with some incredibly wise words:

What a lovely human being. Thank you Ms. Rowling, for everything.

More on this story can be found on Buzzfeed.

“George RR Martin is Not Your Bitch”

In light of George R.R. Martin’s announcement that The Winds of Winter will not be available in 2016, I’d like to revisit this blog post from last year. -RA

rishondawrites

George RR Martin George RR Martin: ‘Fuck you to those people.’

This article struck me as interesting, especially since I have quite a few friends who swear that “A Song of Ice and Fire” will remain forever unfinished.

According to a recent interview with Mr. Martin:  “I find that question pretty offensive, frankly, when people start speculating about my death and my health, so fuck you to those people”. In case the message wasn’t entirely clear, he then gave “those people” the finger.

This is not the first time Martin has been forced to respond to angry fans desperate for the next book in his series. In 2009, before A Song of Ice and Fire was made into the hit HBO television show that has brought hordes of new readers to the books, his fans were clamouring for A Dance With Dragons. “Some of you are angry that I watch football during…

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Thoughtful Thursday!

Is anyone else a perfectionist? It’s not as awesome as it sounds. Instead of crafting the “perfect” work, I spend a lot of my time paralyzed by the thought of moving forward, and the fear that what I have created isn’t good enough.

Don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal. Here’s something that may help:

Print this out and keep it on your desk. Look at it while you write. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

If you are like me, the fear of making mistakes or writing something stupid can keep you in Writer’s Block for weeks. I’ve put off chapters for months at a time simply because they weren’t fully worked out in my mind. Your anxiety or self-doubt may not ever fully go away, but it doesn’t have to. As long as you keep writing, you’ll win.

Do You Have Bad Taste?

You may have bad taste now, but it won’t always be that way.

I absolutely love this quote. It perfectly describes what it’s like to be a young writer. If you are feeling inadequate, if you are struggling to express yourself perfectly, if you stare at the blank page with a rising sense of dread and horror– trust me, you are not alone!

Keep at it, keep at it, keep at it. One day, you will be the one giving advice.