"I love my adverbs,” she said adamantly, wagging her finger righteously through the air.
I always get a bit incensed when I hear new writers when they speak of the scourge of the adverb. I see it all over the place: knock those adverbs out of your writing, use a stronger verb, make your sentences concise—which is an oxymoron that I will explain later.
Frankly, if I want a character to walk quickly, that’s what I want. Sure, I could change it to run, but what if they aren’t running? Get my meaning. Sometimes things happen suddenly, and sometimes they don’t, not to mention the million ways to laugh or speak.
I see so many new authors struggle with comments like these, including myself, since I am in the midst of serious rewrites at the moment. Where do they hear such horrible things, well, they hear comments such as these in writing classes, style books, and see them on the writing blogs -- or they might even hear them quoted from their favourite author, who will remain unmentioned.
Apparently, there are two camps when it comes to adverb usage, those of us who love our adverbs and those who do not. Maybe it’s some deep-seated fear of poetry? Who knows.
This isn’t a new subject, but it is still hotly debated and opinions are deeply divided. Some may even say that this is a battle between European and American style. However you want to describe the situation, it is still a matter of style and not a rule. Adverbs exist for a reason and should be used, deliberately and liberally, if you choose to write in that style. Stylistic choices are not grammatical faux pas. Grammar is grammar and style is completely different. Someone who chooses to use adverbs, structurally and poetically, should not be automatically accused of novice error and accosted for their assumed ignorance.
I am currently reading Douglas Adams “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. Adams was one of the most brilliant writers in the sci-fi genre with over 14 million in books sales from that series of books alone. I read the book twenty plus years ago, and it is as timeless now as it was when he wrote it, not to mention just as hysterical to read. His voice is genuine and pronounced, and Adams, like many other European writers, loves his adverbs, using three or four in a row in some sentences and doing it rather effectively, I might add. But then again, those were the days when a novel was judged by its literary definition and not by word count, which means the choice of an adverb over a long drawn out boring description was actually more concise. Yes, an adverb can actually make a sentence tighter without losing its poetry. Go figure.
I think the adverb began its dark descent from literary grace when the American style of writing began to define itself with the minimalist prose of Hemmingway and others of that sort. Short and direct sentences became the standard, and flowery poetic prose was labelled pretentious and even novice. Adams and more recently Rowling are laughing at that I imagine, laughing hysterically all the way to the bank.
Now, I am not advocating that we get all willy nilly with our adverbs; overuse of anything can compromise a good story, as can endless yards of overdone description as well. Spare me the tedium of six-hundred pages, use some adverbs for crying out loud and get rid of a few hundred coma inducing paragraphs, please. Anything unnecessary should be cut, but we should cut for good reason. Adverbs are our friend, especially in the shorter forms of fiction. They are a valuable part of our living language. So if you love your adverbs as much as I do, as did many other classic and timeless authors, then listen to your own voice and choose your own style.
I would love to hear from some fellow adverb lovers—and haters—comment here with one of the adverb laden sentences you love or hate so much from one of your favourite books. I will pick a winning entry by the end of the month and send that person a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide.
Let’s stand united for the adverb, those deliciously enticing adverbs.
Cheryl Anne Gardner is a retired writer of dark, often disturbing, literary novellas with romantic/erotic undertones. She is an avid reader and an independent reviewer with Podpeople blogspot and Amazon where sheblogs regularly on AmazonConnect. She is an advocatefor independent film, music, and books, and when at all possible, prefers to read and review out of the mainstream Indie published works, foreign translations, and a bit of philosophy. She lives with her husband and two ferrets on the East Coast, USA.