Monday, October 8, 2018

#Writing Tip. ADverbs that ADD to a Sentence's Value

Back in the day, a fad swept at least my part of America. Known as Tom Swifties, each is "a play on words taking the form of a quotation ascribed to Tom and followed by an adverb. Here's a good example:

The thermostat is set too high," said Tom heatedly. 

The blue text is quoted from https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/tom-swifties-puns-that-turn-adverbs-into-punchlines. Used in this manner, adverbs are an art form, particularly for those who love to pun.

There are times and places in your writing when an adverb does ADd to your story.

Most of the time, rather than adding what an author thinks they add, adverbs SUBTRACT from the storyline, distract readers, and might insult readers, too.

I looked at the negatives of adverbs for the previous three blogs. This week we’ll close the door on adverbs with examples that I feel completely help the sentence.

Consider the following sentences. Adverbs are highlighted in yellow.

The first two examples are from my Biblical fiction Novel, "Who Leads the Shepherd." It is currently* in my clean-up edit stage.
*See the closing statement at the end.

A chorus of groans arose from the throats of those assembled. Jeremiah grimaced and waved a stop sign to them. They laughingly complied. 
In this situation, Jeremiah is the leader of the group. He is describing an experience and is about to repeat details heard dozens of times by his followers. The adverb reinforces the idea of comradery between the shepherds. "They complied" is open to an incorrect interpretation of the reaction of the group by the reader.

Before YHWH, I will not sin knowingly in this situation.
Judaism defines sins in detail in the first five books of the Bible. Known as the Pentateuch, this Scripture was well-known to all male Jews. However, once each year, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple. His job was simple. Sacrifice an offering to cover the sins committed unknowingly. A Jewish male would use this adverb to assure his audience of the implication of the act he was about to commit.



The final three examples are from my short story, "Drop-by-Drop." It is a science fiction story with a twist at the end that merges it with the horror genre. The story is included in an upcoming anthology, Mysteries and Mindscapes, from Left Hand Publishers.



After several minutes of fruitless searching, he literally stumbled on the leaky joint. He slipped in a wet spot on the floor and reached out his hand to balance himself on the work counter to his left.
In this scene, the protagonist is looking for a leak in the semi-darkness of a laboratory at night. The sentence following the adverb indicates how literal the term stumbled was.


Moderately successful is an understatement,” Dr. Barry Glover praised. “You produced a fully functioning plant organelle in a bacterium!”
This reaction is to the protagonist's presentation of the results of his research to an oversight committee. The goal was to genetically engineer a mouse into a photosynthesizing animal. Several attempts ended with mice that photosynthesized but not at a level that could sustain a mouse over its normal lifespan. The researcher used the term moderately. The committee chair used his phraseology to set up his own adverb, fully. Dr. Glover refers to the fact that the chloroplasts produced by the host bacterium performed at the same level as those in a plant leaf--a fully functioning plant organelle.



Closing Statement
You control the frequency of adverb use in your writing. How many adverbs and with what intent are for you to decide.
*When I ran this post through ProWritingAid, the program recommended removing currently. The program was right. It is not necessary. Can you see why it's not needed? I should have followed the following recommendation. 😉
I end with this recommendation.

As you edit your manuscript and come to an adverb, read that sentence without the adverb. If it conveys the message you want, delete the adverb. 

Your readers will thank you.



Next Author’s Blog: My Definition of Success (Updated)



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