Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Stephen King on Adverbs and Jaclyn Moriarty Goes Gothic

Recently read the infamous Stephen King's On Writing - which was an easy but informative read. He manages to make writing look so easy! Here's some quotes in a section on adverbs: 

The adverb is not your friend. p117 (haha)

I can be a good sport about adverbs, though. Yes I can. With one exception [use] only in the rarest and most special of circumstances.p119.

Some writers try to evade the no adverb rule by shooting the attribution word full of steroids. p120.

Haha. This cracked me up :) So true. Here's some examples Stephen included:
"Put the gun down" Jekyll grated.
"Never stop kissing me!" Shayna gasped.
Shayna, you go girl!

Don't do these things. Please oh please. p120.

...while to write adverbs is human, to write he said or she said is divine. p122.

Love this book :)

Sometimes, though, I love adverbs.

They really can make a sentence that much more funny, or add foreshadowing or just give a sentence a unique rhythm and flavour. In my own work, I weigh up every adverb I use and see if it is really adding to the sentence/atmosphere or if it's amateur and cluttering the writing.

Shiny new UK cover :)
also known as
The Year of Secret Assignments
Jaclyn Moriarty uses adverbs in most awesomest of ways. I love her adverbs, which are sometimes my favourite part of the sentence/scene.

Here' a scene from Finding Cassie Crazy (The Year of Secret Assignments). Lydia is documenting a convo between her parents at the breakfast table in a letter to Seb (I love Seb, too).

Mum: (sweetly) Take it easy on the butter there, honey. You've already forgotten the results of your latest cholesterol test, haven't you?
Dad: This is low-fat margarine, as a matter of a fact.
Mum: (surprisingly) Up yours, as a matter of a fact.

I love the sweetly. I adore the surprisingly. I love how that one adverb can set the tone of the entire scene. I love how the surprisingly is in Lydia's narration (her response to what her mum said), and we are left to imagine the exact tone her mother uses. And I'm totally hearing the tone :)

US hardcover of
Dreaming of Amelia
Oooh! Gothic!
Here's a statement from Emily, from Dreaming of Amelia (The Ghosts of Ashbury High) she's writing in an exam paper.

'I began to hyperventilate, quietly.'

Haha. I love Emily. She narrates with exclamation marks! Sometimes even in multiples!!! And adverbs! And drama! Adverbs totally work for Emily b/c she's an adverb kinda girl, and Jaclyn uses this to add humour and authenticity to the character. I love how the quietly is tacked on at the end, as if to somehow dignify the statement. I can't imagine Emily would do anything quietly, lol, but I admire her for being an unreliable narrator that way.

And, because I can, another snippet from Emily - she is writing an HSC exam paper: a personal memoir with Gothic undertones (!)

'There is a deep foreboding within me,' I said, (or words like that, not exactly that), 'that my new shampoo doesn't actually bring out the honey highlights in my hair like it says it does!'
Lydia shook her head at me slowly, cryptically.
It could be that she meant: 'No, Em, don't worry. I see plenty of honey highlights.'
But I doubt it.
(pg 6)

Back to back adverbs! And I love it. Love Em and Lyd :)

What about you? Are you an adverb user? Do you secretly love adverbs? Do you kill them off? Do you notice them when you read? Do you love all things Jaclyn Moriarty?


  1. I loved Stephen King's book, and I do tend to delete adverbs where they pop up as uninvited guests, but there are times when they're appropriate, like your examples above. God, can't wait to read those books. :)

  2. I still have not read SK's book, but it's on my list.

    I feel like adverbs get a bad rap.

    I'm sure to use them all the time is wrong, but I don't think they're evil. I guess they can easily be a stand in for TELLING not SHOWING and that's why they're so disliked.

  3. I secretly love adverbs. It gives the sentence a quirky feel.

    Sometimes I don't like it when writers don't use a whole lot of adverbs. It makes it harder to understand the feeling behind what they say. I want to feel!!!

  4. Oh, I totally agree with you. Sometimes adverbs are absolutely fine! As long as they're used pretty sparingly, I don't really mind them.

    I've noticed J.K. Rowling used a TON of adverbs throughout the Harry Potter series. It's funny though, I didn't notice this until I had started writing seriously. After I had it drilled into my mind that adverbs were bad, then I started noticing them everywhere.

  5. I definitely do need to read ON WRITING. And I agree that adverbs are fine, as long as they're used in moderation. Like Meeroar, adverbs can make a sentence sound quirky, if used correctly. :)

  6. I love On Writing, so much great advice in there.

    I always overuse adverbs and I try and cut them out. They're like salt, a little really enhances your food, too much and it's all you notice.

    I MUST read Jaclyn Moriarty, I love the quotes you picked.

  7. I love Stephen King's book. Totally love it.

    You know what else I love? Adverbs. I love them. I will probably never stop loving them. And I want them everywhere -- though I only use them half as much as I want too.

    Jaclyn Moriarty... on my list. You're making me love her and I haven't read anything by her yet.

  8. I started noticing adverbs a lot more too after I realised they were so frowned upon - I usually notice where they can be cut, but other times (ie Jaclyn Moriarty( I'm like: Ooooh! it's an adverb and it's flipping awesomely hilarious! :)

  9. Jaclyn Moriarty ROCKS.
    And, oh man, totally love Em, Lyd and Cass!

    <3 this post!

  10. I love Stephen King's "On Writing". Adverbs are not bad, just try not to use them. To be honest, ever since learning about that rule, I've realised that a lot of times, writers don't NEED adverbs. You don't need to say "He said quietly." If you must say that, use "He said". Or "He said in a whisper". No need for adverb in dialogue tags.

    My ultimate rule is only use adverbs in dialogues, i.e when my characters are talking. When people talk they use adverbs. "Um ... actually I couldn't make it yesterday." That's something a normal person would say, so it's correct. In descriptive writing, the "actually" shouldn't be there. :D


Thanks for the commenty love :)