“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
Stephen King said that, or something damn close to it, and I find it an interesting piece of advice. Adverbs, after all, are a tool, and tools are neither bad nor good, they can simply be used for bad or good things. So like a lot of the pieces of writing advice that are out there, I think it’s useful to pick it apart and think about what it actually MEANS.
King doesn’t mean that you should never, ever use an adverb in your writing. Pick up any of his books, you’ll see that they’re loaded with ’em. On the other hand, it’s important to decide if an adverb is the BEST way to communicate an idea. Great writing is succinct, and it’s important not to use two words when one will suffice, especially if the one is a better word. Adverbs are traditionally used to modify verbs… but what if you can replace the Adverb+Verb combo with a single verb that carries the same meaning? Not only is it more succinct, but it’s also often more evocative.
Quickly moved? Try “hustled” instead.
Nervously shook? How about “shuddered”?
Or the sentence I was working on when I decided to write this post: I had written the dreary word combo “slowly walked,” and it occurred to me that “crept” was a much better word to use.
So there ya go, friends: a piece of advice from a master like King, a piece of probably unnecessary exposition of that advice from an amateur like me, and most importantly, this allowed me to procrastinate a little while I should actually have been working on my story. And that’s what writers all live for.
Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. Okay, that’s about all the procrastination he can get away with right now.