"I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs," wrote Stephen King in "On Writing" but I respectfully disagree.
- •Avoiding adverbs is a stylistic choice. Eschewing them is also a stylistic choice.
- •Our actual lived experience is often dizzyingly adverbial. We don't feel bluntly or directly, we feel in complexly modulated clusters of nuance. And adverbs are pretty good for that. They help capture what the nouns and verbs feel like within a constantly surging human consciousness.
- •Although I do think that adverbs can be better suited to the intimacy and interiority of the first person rather than the third person.
- •In the third person, adverbs can feel cloying or overwrought, the author's hand too heavy on the reader's shoulder. The world feels differently from inside a character's mind versus hovering overhead. The context itself is adverbial
- •As a third person present-tense literary form, the screenplay doesn't require a lot of adverbs. But as a written document that needs to evoke a propulsive visual experience, everything that helps the writer tell their specific story the best way possible should be employed. Yes, even semi-colons.
- •No, I take that back, never semi-colons.
- •A strong anti-adverb stance is a literary affectation. Does that affectation trend to middle-aged men who went through serious Hemingway phases in their sexed up and/or undersexed twenties and like to tell people how they're "allowed" to write? Kind of, yes.
- •When people dismiss adverbs as indicating a writer who doesn't trust the precision of their own words, they often mean intensifiers like "completely", "absolutely", "totally", and the much derided "literally".
- •But that's how people talk. They exaggerate up and also gauge down for rhetorical purposes. Adverbs can be powerful tools for revealing the state of mind of the narrator. But like every other word they need to be employed with absolute precision for specific effect.
- •Life isn't blunt, existence isn't direct. It's perceptual and emotional chaos. The illusion of literature is nailing down the fog of experience into a careful sequence of perfect words that convey with total clarity what the author means to say.
- •Except, come on, fuck that. The truth of literature is it's just as much a fumbling, incomplete mess as everything else in life.
- •All language is rhetorical. Word choices are an embedded argument for the effect you'd like those words to have on your reader. The more capable the writer, the more precise the choices and their effects. At least in theory.
- •In practice, of course, even the most accomplished writer has to contend with a miasma of memory, experience, taste, prejudice, interpretation, ignorance, and wisdom on the part of every reader.
- •Adverbs are a tool like any other in the literary shed. To be deployed at will or whim.
- •I like them. They are useful. And I don't like being told how I'm "supposed" to write. Adverbs are great.