Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Absolutely Undeserved Hatred of Adverbs



Actually.

That's it.

I wanted to start with an adverb so just--Actually.

Actually, though, I do have some news. I was awarded the American Literary Merit Award for my short story, Your Sister's Wedding Reception. See award above post.


Where was I? Oh yeah. Actually adverbs get a bad rap from the writing community. Stephen King said, "The road to hell is paved with adverbs." He'll probably write a thousand page book about it some weekend. He could have Automaton Adverbs rise from the River Styx and attack lost souls cast from Purgatory to Perdition or some such nonsense similar to the recent crap he's been putting out. We need another short story from him to inspire movies like The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption. All in favor?

And then there's my hero, Elmore Leonard, who wrote, "Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange."

He's right, of course--to a point. I enjoy reading lines of dialogue from the classics such as, "You may look as you like, my dear," he said, deliciously. Now truly, really, doesn't deliciously imply something wicked about the dude's character? He's a slime-bucket and a pervert. Only an adverb could describe a character so completely.
The adverb is a gem and comes to its full potential singularly in the English language. In English the ly comes off the tongue like beautifully, lovely, carefully, constructed candy. But only in English.

For example, let’s look at the adverb, Darkly, first in English, and then in other languages.

English------Darkly.

Spanish-----Misteriosamente.

French------Obscurement.

Russian-----Mpayho.

Icelandic----Dokkleitar.

So if you wanted to read your favorite poem, Through a Glass Darkly in Iceland, you'd lose some of that ardent emotion. Through a Glass Dokkleitar just doesn't cut it.


So fight the orthodoxy (noun, not an adverb) and spew those adverbs throughout your work, fellow writers, resolutely, magnificently. Throw caution to the wind and watch King and Leonard and your creative writing professor cringe--------excruciatingly.