No Adverbs Allowed

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The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
—Stephen King

When I first started writing I searched for just the right adverb to describe an action. Adding “ly” to many words turned them into adverbs. Happy becomes Happily, Jealous—Jealously, Lazy—Lazily, you get my point. Many adverbs, but not all, end with “ly”. Words like almost, never, always qualify, too.

Imagine my surprise–after amassing the greatest list of adverbs known to man–to find you should not use them when writing a story. A writer needs to describe the action instead of using an adverb. Here’s an example.

“You picked him over me?” he asked angrily.

“You picked him over me?” he asked as his eyes widened and face grew red. He crossed his arms, spun on his heel and stormed away.

I’ve become obsessed looking for adverbs in novels. I forget to read the text. I nod my head up and down in approval when I read a description instead of seeing a single “ly” word. When I do see an adverb, I cringe. Then I practice in my head how it could be corrected. It’s not an easy task. One way is to envision the person doing the action and explain what you see.

I think Steven King is sending a message. Adverbs are the easy way out. When it comes to writing, nothing is easy. If you get writer’s block stop what you’re doing. Walk away from the computer, the typewriter or notepad. Go do something else. Whatever you do, don’t revert back to your old ways. Remember, the road to hell is paved with adverbs.

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Who Do You Look Like?

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I remember standing in my paternal grandmother’s living room being asked that question. Her neighbor came over to visit, took one look at my older sister and saw the family resemblance. She gazed over at me, studied me up and down and asked the question, “Who do you look like?”

I was quite young at the time, maybe five or six, and refused to answer. My mother always referred to that reaction as being a stubborn Swede. Stubborn Swede or not, I didn’t like the question. What did she care who I looked like? My sister was my sister and so what if we didn’t look alike? If I had the nerve I do now, I might have answered, “the mailman.”

Maybe that’s why, to this day, I have such trouble describing people in my novels. I’m always stumped when it comes to descriptions. I’m aware people want to know the color of the romantic lead’s eyes or the hero’s hair color. Is the character tall or short? Lean or has muscles? Then it’s on to the lead female character. Full lips? Flowing hair or cropped short? I could go on and on.

Descriptions are important in a novel so I started a folder of character traits. Whenever I come across one I like, I add it to the list. I found a website that describes eye color, not just the green, blue, brown but all the shades in between. Definitely a keeper!

All authors have their own personal stumbling blocks. Mine happens to be descriptions. It carries over to scenery and clothes, too. To help the process, I study pictures, close my eyes to envision my character, and write and keep rewriting until it flows. It’s a type of writer’s block and can halt the whole writing process.

I guess you’re wondering if I ever gave that neighbor an answer. I’m sure my dad wasn’t too happy with my silence and prodded me to speak. I remember that day as clear as if it was yesterday. I finally did answer the question, “Who do you look like?” I looked her straight in the eye and uttered just one word, “Me.”

Blogging is Hard Work!

 

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Kudos and high praise to the bloggers who keep coming up with great topics and ideas for their blogs. I have to admit at times I draw a blank. And, no, the next sentence of this post will not be “and today is one of those days”.

Instead I want to give a shout out to all bloggers, whether I follow you or not or just read you here and there. Some of you blog daily. High fives to you. Others are consistently clever or funny. I marvel at the ability. I strive for humor once in a great while and hope to succeed.

Then there’s the group who can turn words into poetry or find great quotes to back up their thoughts. I wish I had that talent. I fumble around when someone asks, “What’s your favorite song?” To be fair, I never liked that question. Hard to have just one, isn’t it? But to be able to pull quotes from the air or write like a song is quite a gift.

Another group of bloggers I enjoy are the ones who give advice I’m looking for. Now I know we don’t like people telling us what to do but when you go looking for it…that’s a completely different matter.

I look for writing help, editing ideas, promotions that work and other nuggets that will help me in my writing endeavors. I have a special folder created for all the ones I like and want to read again.

I researched “ideas for blogs” and read all the helpful hints. Stick to popular topics, add categories and tags, blog often. It’s a lot of work. I promised myself I would try to blog once a week when I started. Will I stick to that promise? I’ll try but decided to give myself a break. There’s no real handbook for bloggers.

One thing I can say, blogging keeps me on my toes. Sometimes a phrase catches my eye or I’ll read something in the newspaper or see something on-line and think, “I have to blog about that”. I’ve been introduced to some great blogs from people who follow me. I go to their site and read their posts. So many interesting points of view in our world.

Is blogging hard work? A little more difficult than I first imagined. Will I give up? No, I don’t think so. I see it as a challenge. I’ve met new people through it. I’ve read and learned things I never would have if I didn’t start.

So kudos to you, fellow bloggers. Keep up the good work. Keep writing. Someone might find your blog one day, read it and unknowingly you may help them in some way or make their day.

Finding a Title

TwitterbirdTitles don’t come easy to me, thus the unforgettable one today. They have to be catchy and still match the story…or blog. I should be better at it because we tend to make up names for lots of things in our family.

One I’ll share today is the dreaded Chirp-athon. My husband aptly named it because starting in the spring, right through summer; the birds begin a chorus of chirps kicking off around 5 a.m.

Now if you’re sleeping, you’re golden and never know it’s happening. But if you’re awake for any reason, you will not be serenaded back to sleep, you’ll just lie there and pray it ends…soon. I can tell you first-hand it lasts over an hour, is very loud and then suddenly everything falls silent. I guess the birds are done singing their anthem, “The early bird gets the worm”, by then and fly off to begin their day. I’m left staring at the bedroom ceiling.

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Our favorite Chirp-athon is when one bird decides to sit right outside our bedroom window. It sets up a mic stand and surround-sound speakers. We don’t know if it’s a special guest star or one-time appearance because it doesn’t happen too often, thank goodness. It’s like having our alarm clock set for 5 a.m. No sleeping through that.

I guess if we didn’t see the humor in it, it could drive us crazy, and families need that…both humor and a little crazy sometimes.

They also need buzz words, or fun sayings, in their lives…a phrase or word that can bring smiles to their faces or make them recall a certain memory. Something only the family knows the meaning of and the outside world has no clue.

So after coming up with these catchy words and sayings for years, I have the dreaded title block as I have come to call it. It’s like writer’s block only different. I keep telling myself it will come to me, keep writing, but it doesn’t. When I finally do get a brainstorm, I go to Amazon to check if there are any similar titles. If I see ten books with the same heading, I don’t want to use it anymore.

So what am I to do? Wrack my brain, read a thesaurus, Google words or pray for divine intervention? I don’t know what the answer is. Frustrating as it is, I know I’ll keep trying but there’s just a little piece of me that wants to throw up my hands and say, “Oh, this is for the birds.”

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!
— Dr. Seuss