Friday, May 29, 2009

Self-Editing -- Adjectives and Adverbs

I know what you're thinking. Ouch. Self-editing. Boring! I'll skim this blog, drop in a quick comment, and run.

Please don't. Stick around. I have a surprise for you.

Each visitor who comments on this blog today or tomorrow will be entered in a drawing for an advanced reading copy of The Desert Hedge Murders.

All you have to do is write a simple sentence of at least ten words without using any adjectives or adverbs, and the sentence must create a picture with at least one color. Here's an example (which you may not use): The cowboy tripped in a rut as he ran past the sunflowers his wife had planted by the corral.

Leave your sentence as a comment, and then you're free to go. Please note that offensive entries will be disqualified, even if no adverbs and adjectives were used.

Simply stated, we don't need to tell smart, intuitive readers everything. They will fill in the blanks as long as the blanks are not critical to your story. You can describe a protagonist (male) as 60ish with long black hair, bronze skin, and a leathery, weathered face, and the reader will know what your American Indian character looks like. But if you say he's an Arapahoe elder, won't the reader form a similar mental picture without all the extra words?

Not all adjectives and adverbs are bad, of course. In some cases, details are important to the story and may be clues or red herrings. In other cases, a character's appearance might explain his odd behavior. Sometimes they're needed to create a mood. Even so, use adverbs and adjectives carefully and be precise. Don't use two or three when one will do the job.

21 comments:

Karen Walker said...

Were you a school teacher at one time? Just kidding! Here's my sentence:

The choir strolled into the auditorium one by one, wearing pastels and whites, clutching their songbooks.

Paul Brazill said...

The morning after he killed her the air tasted grey and metallic.

alexisgrant said...

I have to save this kind of creative thinking for my day of writing!! :) Maybe tomorrow...

The Practical Preserver said...

Skulking around the hedges, the creature sensed its doom approaching.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Karen, I was never a schoolteacher but I did do a little training when I was a manager in the corporate accounts payable world. Would you believe I taught folks how to use new accounts payable systems? Self-editing is a hundred times more interesting than that.

Good morning, Paul. Nice to have you dropping by. From your sentence, I'm guessing you write mysteries or thrillers.

Alexis, I'm shocked. I expected something very creative about Africa.

And our practical preserver things horror or fantasy while she's canning and freezing veggies. Hi Karen.

Now we need more....better go Tweet this blog.

Elle Parker said...

The soldiers bowed their heads as the flag was lifted from the casket and folded.

Interesting little assignment! And marvelous advice.


Elle Parker
http://elleparkerbooks.blogspot.com/

Galen Kindley said...

I don’t know what colorful adjectives and overdone adverbs are!

May I have a "Mercy" copy for “Most Pathetic Commenter?”

Best Regards, Galen.
GalenKindley.com

Patricia Stoltey said...

Elle, your sentence creates a vivid image plus emotion. This is the way I want to write.

Galen, (laugh) you get detention.

Lynnette Labelle said...

Neat contest!

The Greys marched from their spaceship, guns in hand, ready for battle.

Lynnette Labelle

http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

K. A. Laity said...

Mary Anne cut the aubergine, her hand and the towel.

Patricia Stoltey said...

You guys are so much fun. I see the Greys marching down the ramp, and blood all over the aubergine. Do you have any idea how many story ideas you all are generating?

Anonymous said...

Hooked-I'll be green with envy if I don't win!

Best wishes,
Jackie Griffey

Jason said...

The scuba-diver watched the yellow fish swim by, making her laugh and smile.

Jason Patrick

K. B. Keilbach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K. B. Keilbach said...

The pig jumped upon the table and snarfed the brownies.

(Actually, he ate the dog's food; but that didn't create a picture with color :)

Kimberly
http://kbkeilbach.blogspot.com

Patricia Stoltey said...

Kimberly, this picture of a pig on the table (eating dog food, not brownies) is going to stay in my mind for a long time.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

The cat swished its tail and tensed to pounce on his owner's nemesis-- the squirrel that stole birdseed each day.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Susan said...

During the night, dogwoods and lilies of the valley became ghosts, bobbing in the wind outside the library.

Linda Suzane said...

The problem is getting the color in without really stating it.

The vampire's skin was the color of the tomb's marble, his lips that of wilting roses.

Patricia Stoltey said...

This is getting more fun with each post. And count on Linda to bring a vampire into the mix.

julielomoe said...

My cat Lunesta awakens from dozing on my desk, arches her back and peers at the maple leaves that block the birds from view.