View Full Version : Adjective Lust
May 4th, 2003, 12:24 AM
I lust after good adjectives. I use them too much. Sometimes, my writing reads like this:
"The [adjective] gate opend and an [adjective] woman strode through, giving an [adjective] glance in the direction of her [adjective] companion. He glanced back [adjectively], conveying an [adjective] knowledge of her [adjective] intentions."
You get the point. I'm exaggurating, but you get the idea.
The reason I fall into this trap is because when I read a story, I want to hear, smell, taste, and otherwise wholly experience the world in which it takes place. However, adjectives are like a beautiful woman; the right one is a dream come true, but too many will cause you nothing but problems. (the preceeding sentence has been copyrighted by me, copyright 5 minutes ago)
Do you guys have problems restraining your desire to adjectize your writing to death? I sure do, but I'm working on it.:)
May 4th, 2003, 07:58 AM
Oh lord, yes.
I even tend to string them out. The urge for vivid description makes me create long sentences, with several prepositional phrases, that winds up being hard to read.
Witness the previous sentence.
My problem likely stems from being a Zane Grey fan in my youth. He was such a master of creating vivid descriptions of the west, that I suppose it affected my style. I want to convey detail, make the scene come alive.
I have found that the best authors do just the opposite. They are short, sharp and incisive. They give a speed to the story, an immediacy, especially in action scenes.
May 4th, 2003, 10:44 AM
I tend to start out with a few more adjectives than are necessary for pretty much the same reasons. I don't worry about it too much though. Usually, when I self-edit, I'm looking for ways to cut the story down. I trim the fat, and do what I can to loose the passive voice.
As I write, I always want to paint an entire scene - appeal to all the senses and whatnot. I think the trick though, is to figure out what's necessary versus what's just a flowery coating. As a writer I feel that there comes a point when I have to have a little faith in the reader's imagination too. The reader doesn't need to be lead around like a blind child through a fictional world. He or she simply has to be pointed in the right direction from time to time.
May 4th, 2003, 11:09 AM
I'm with Choppy. Get in any number of adjectives in your first draft and don't worry that you may use too many. For me, that's writing with your heart and it's a good way to go. The critical stage is editing when you need to read your work very carefully if you feel you overuse adjectives. Remember that less is often more... one adjective, well-placed and chosen, can communicate far more than a dozen sprinkled around - they will affect the flow of the work.
For myself, I work on deleting about 50% of the adjectives from a first draft. But then, pace is critical in my work. We are all writing to achieve different effects.
May 4th, 2003, 05:55 PM
If you are using adjectives more than you like, then you certainly can trim them in revision. If, however, you think that keeping down the adjectives is the way that you are suppose to do it, perhaps you're reining yourself in too much. In the twentieth century, there developed a particular style which became popular and admired and much emulated. And somehow in the process, it seemed to become popular wisdom that everyone should write in this style and to not do so would be considered poor writing. But the truth is that plenty of writers go hog-wild with adjectives and receive both success and critical accolades. It's like sauces -- they can be spicy or sweet, and not everyone likes both, but there's no reason to throw one of them out.
My view is that writers are trying to communicate to their audience in their stories -- images, topics, plot, character development -- and sometimes to do so, an author might want very detailed and specific description, and other times, the author might want to make things sparse and sketchy. Which when is a matter of preference and personal style.
So if you're lusting after adjectives, my advice would be to use as many as you like -- better to satisfy the itch than have your head explode -- and if it then seems clunky to you, you can abandon your indulgences by cutting some of them out. But what I see happen in a lot of manuscripts is that the writer will deliver the big moment of action in one sentence, with no suspense, tension or drama, and often quite a bit of confusion, and that is far more awkward than an extra detail or two.
May 4th, 2003, 10:13 PM
If the story flows and the writing is quality, it shouldn't matter.
I myself write slow-paced stories, but of late I have been trying to make it sharper and more concise. I don't use too many adjectives though and I'm trying to add more metaphors, which were previously almost non-existent.
May 5th, 2003, 01:48 AM
Ooooffff.....oh, yes....I have a problem with adjectives! *chuckles* Though I will say that I am dealing much better with them in recent writing forays. I have been called "lyrical" in how I write because of the time I spend with description. But I just can't help it. For me...the sentence has to read well, out loud, it has to sound well. And if that means stringing together a few adjectives, then I do it! And do it gladly!
But I've learned to tamper it down a bit and have created a style that words, both for me and for the reader, at least based on some of the feedback I have received. But I also think it depends on the type of story I'm writing at the time. I can be quite spartan when the story calls for crispness but when I'm writing a "mindscape", I get to go hogwild with adjectives and it certainly hits the spot!
May 5th, 2003, 01:53 AM
This has never troubled me about my writing. Now that I think about it, I don't think I have a "lust" about adjectives. I use them when I want to give an information about someone/thing; an important information, mind. E.g., a wet cat; if you don't write "wet", then something is missing if you really want the cat to be wet in the story.
What I have to say about adjectives is use them once and then omit them. For instance, the first time your POV characters sees the door, tell us it was a "wooden door", but don't repeat it after that; just write "the door".
My 2 (euro)cents. :)
May 5th, 2003, 05:03 AM
Absolutely used to. Leave me un-restrained and I'll over-write and leave a string of adjectives and adverbs littered about the text. Personally, I just think it's my natural style and I like it.
However, now I'm writing specifically with the traditional markets in mind, I make a specific point of keeping the writing much sharper and focussed, with minimal adjectives. I really much prefer my natural style, though. :(
May 17th, 2003, 11:32 AM
I had heard a lot about over-use of adjectives, and I tended to believe the various people, online and offline, that said that using too many big words is a bad thing. Wow, what a great opening sentence...
Then I read some Lovecraft.
H.P Lovecraft, to me, is possibly the fantasy/horror writer of the 20th century. Or, at least he would have, had he lived longer and decided to actually publish a book or two. His writing is in short stories, and each is extraordinarily beautiful. To put it simply, his writing is perfect.
Have a look at Celephais (http://www.gizmology.net/lovecraft/works/celephai.htm), The Call of Cthulhu (http://www.gizmology.net/lovecraft/works/cthulhu.htm) The Whisperer in Darkness (http://www.gizmology.net/lovecraft/works/whisperer.htm). Definitely some cool stuff.
My opinion is that fantasy should be well written and have a big word here or there, while with other various genres, indeed less is more.
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