“When you catch an adjective, kill it."
- Mark Twain
I swear I'm not against all adjectives and adverbs. In fact, neither was Mark Twain, as seen in the context
of the above quote. Adjectives and adverbs can be vital tools to make a passage more vivid and accurate.
They are also tools best used sparingly. They can be abused when they become a shorthand for actual description, and especially when used to tell instead of show even when showing is more appropriate.
Therefore the direction in this exercise is to rewrite two passages without using adjectives or adverbs, hopefully changing it for the better.
Original: It was cold beyond imagination outside. I never realized it could be this cold.
Rewrite: I turned my collar up against fingers of cold that kept forcing their way down my shirt. Breathing was like sucking an icicle up my nose.
Original: "I don't see how that's relevant," she said coldly.
Rewrite: Her smile flattened out; shutters closed behind her eyes. "I don't see how that's relevant."
The lesson is not that ad-words are Evil, but rather to learn to think without them so they don't become a means to prop up vague writing. I can think of a couple of adjectives that could go into the rewrite versions without doing harm, though I believe the writing is leaner without them.
Below are my prompts; as always, spoiler fold
or space out to prevent peeking. Feel free to give prompts of your own along this vein, whether in your own journal or as a comment to this post.Prompts:
He stood at the window watching for the lights, feeling agitated, afraid, and very much alone.
She stepped lightly over the stepping-stones, her feet barely above the surface of the swollen brook.