rdale wrote:I've observed that concepts like, "Never use adverbs!" and "Never write in passive voice!" are for students who need to learn lessons that they won't unless given strict guidelines, where infractions against those guidelines risks a reduced grade. They're good exercises, but as with all things in language, there are limits to their application beyond which they degrade one's writing rather than improving it.
So, you think the usage of some adverbs isn't a bad thing in fiction? I've always heard that you should rid your fiction of all adverbs, that they're a sign of weak writing skills.
It does sound as if that is what rdale might be saying. If so, I can only agree.
Maybe we should define 'I've always heard'. We've all heard that advice, but is it the only advice we've heard? The only advice we've listened to? Is that actually 'sound' advice?
I think it's important to understand 'rules', and 'guidelines', to the point where we need to know when and if it's OK to color a bit outside the lines.
Stephen King is famous for saying adverbs are a tool of the devil and the mark of a neophyte. He has as much credibility as anyone, does he not? And well-deserved.
But take any story he has written, and remove all the adverbs. Now try to revise it so it does not need the adverbs. Believe me, there are plenty of adverbs in SK's stories, and take them all out, and it will make little syntactical sense. It would be no more than gibberish.
If you were to port a SK chapter into The Hemingway App (which tallies adverbs and tells you if you have more than you should or less than you should) SK probably violates that number fairly often, his damned self. (Hemingway himself, does not). That app also flags passive voice, and tells you whether you have too much, implying that some is OK.
(But it might also not be worth the 20 bucks—I had a character named Sgt. Stokely. It flagged 'Stokely' as an adverb, simply because the algorithm it uses is too stupid to realize that the 'ly' suffix does not automatically imply 'adverb')
Also, I don't believe for a second that we can boil down 'how many adverbs are OK to use' into an arbitrary number. What SK does is use them intelligently, and sparingly. That should be the real advice. IOW, don't use too many, and don't use them where you don't need them, and write creatively in a way where the sentence works better with fewer adverbs. Don't use them as a crutch or an easy way out (there is no easy way out in good writing).
The advice 'No Adverbs!' is really only useful to get the attention of beginning writers who have not yet understood the power adverbs can bring, and the pain of too many of them. If you can't tell an adverb from an adjective, that's a problem. If you aren't aware that even two adverbs in a row dilutes both words, that's a problem.
IOW, it's not difficult to understand the nature of adverbs, what they bring, and what problems they could bring. Once you understand that, the advice 'No Adverbs!' seems completely ludicrous. Is someone telling you this to help you? Or draw attention to their own threatened ego? Or to confuse you and discourage you?
My advice is to understand the issue, realize what adverbs can do, what they can bring, and what they can threaten in your prose, then transcend such ridiculous advice, and just write.