Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The craft of rewriting-Technical Flaws-Vocabulary-Weak Forms-Weak Adjectives
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: April 07, 2013
As a writer, language is our medium for painting the worlds we’ve created for our reader. Imagine doing so with only a box of primary colors. This is the dull effect that weak adjectives create. We think we’re painting the scene, but some adjectives are so bland, so generic, that they add nothing at all.
“Interesting,” “lovely,” “beautiful,” “bad,” “good,” “large,” “little,” “long,” “new,” “old,” “short,” “small,” “unique,” and “black” are just a few empty adjectives that litter our prose, doing nothing except take up space. Sometimes we can leave them, but often, more descriptive choices are needed. Consider the many synonyms for happy: “content,” “joyful,” “ecstatic,” “blissful,” “pleased,” “merry,” “thrilled” and “jubilant.” Those are just a few. Any one of these might show more than happy would because these synonyms give the reader an idea of just how happy the character is.
Sometimes a specific adverb or adjective in the right place strengthens or clarifies an image. However, many writers, in a misguided attempt to make their fiction writing descriptive, overuse these words.
The fragrant liquid tickled her nose, and she sighed happily.
This can be shown with more precise language. Fragrant? What kind of fragrance? Happily? We can do better than that.
The scent of chamomile tickled her nose, and she smiled.
We could expand more still but, essentially, we’ve shown what we wanted to without the weak forms. The second example gives us more information. We want adjectives to describe; if they add nothing, they’re useless. Many times, strong nouns and verbs will show what the adjective is describing instead.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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