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Jan's Writing Basics #2: Beware of Adjectives and Adverbs

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Postby glorybee » Wed Jan 27, 2010 11:45 am

Julie, thanks so much for your thoughts on the use of descriptors in poetry. I always appreciate hearing from poets, as poetry is definitely out of my comfort zone.

And your re-write is one of the best--you took out all of the dead weight, but still made the two admittedly banal paragraphs engaging and fun.

Well done!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby PottersClay » Wed Jan 27, 2010 4:43 pm

This made great reading. Thanks for the lesson, Jan. I realise it's meant to be interactive, but I'm just too exhausted from my own gruelling day and am going to go throw off my ivory shoes (avoiding the kitchen and the lego) and head straight for my plush, soft, welcoming bed!!

No, just kidding! I SO got it. :thankssign

Joan
Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire.
Let me not sink to be a clod,
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.
Amy Carmichael

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Postby glorybee » Wed Jan 27, 2010 4:45 pm

LOL, Joan! Nice grin for me on this lazy, idle, nonactive, indolent day.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby honeyrock » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:47 pm

:D I so love this - it is so much fun!

Here's my attempt:


Jan trudged through the doorway of her large and now too-empty home. She allowed the Luis Vuitton satchel to slide to the floor and sagged against the wall. Raising an aching limb, she began to peel the pewter sandals from her throbbing feet.

A frosty soda not only sounded refreshing but would help in providing a burst of energy she would desperately need later. Maybe she could also find a sweet distraction in a left over piece of that red velvet cake slathered with cream cheese frosting. She would just ignore the maroon and green decorations on top declaring birthday wishes with flowery garnish.

The young woman padded across the cool slate of the kitchen floor and heaved the stainless steel refrigerator door open. Bending down to peer inside, a fiery arrow of pain suddenly lay further assault to her foot.


“OW!” she yelped, sapphire eyes flaring. She spied the offensive weapon on the floor – a miniscule lego piece. Somehow the straggler had escaped the toy sweep from her nephew’s visit yesterday.
Be strong and very courageous Joshua 1:7

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Postby honeyrock » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:57 pm

In looking back on the other "entries" oops - I didn't finish assignment

Oh well. Just a question :roll: I took the "stainless steel refrigerator" as necessary because I felt was an indication that the character had money? So I 'spounded on the idea....

Well if we were supposed to edit down, I sure failed!!!
Be strong and very courageous Joshua 1:7

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Postby glorybee » Wed Jan 27, 2010 7:21 pm

Ummmm, honeyrock? Your creativity is showing all over the place...but the idea was to eliminate adjectives, not put them in! LOL!

You sure picked some doozies, though. Love the way you think and the way you write. But if I were your editor, I send it back to you and tell you to get your scalpel out.

To answer your question--if it's important that the refrigerator be stainless steel, I'd introduce that fact another way. Have her wipe a smudge off it, or glance at her reflection in it. But there are probably better ways to establish her income than her refrigerator.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Joolz » Thu Jan 28, 2010 5:18 am

Thanks Jan.

Love this class!

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Postby honeyrock » Thu Jan 28, 2010 2:08 pm

:oops: Thanks. I just got so exuberant over the "salsa" class and I think I was trying my chops......
Be strong and very courageous Joshua 1:7

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Postby semmie » Thu Jan 28, 2010 4:17 pm

Hrm. Late to the party for the second week in a row. Sorry, Jan! I'll try better next week! Here's my lame attempt (I hate rewriting. UGH!) :

Just a few more steps, Jan thought as she walked into her house and slipped the shoes from her weary feet. Her reward for surviving the day—moist chocolate cake with thick frosting and a cold Diet Coke to wash it down—was waiting for her in the refrigerator. Just a few more steps, she coaxed again. Keep your eyes on the prize!

Stepping forward with determination, she failed to notice the Lego on the floor until it was embedded in her heel. “Ow!” she exclaimed. Jan steadied herself with her hand as she pried the toy from her tender flesh. When she straightened again, the frown on her face disappeared along with the hand print she’d left on the stainless steel refrigerator.

It was cake time.



Question: Most of the adverbs and adjectives in this exercise were redundant (ie: "dark ebony" and "sugary saccharine", etc.); is redundancy the only issue? Or is it possible to describe too much unnecessarily? Sorry if this has been addressed already. I wanted to submit my efforts before reading all of the posts.
let mercy lead
let love be the strength in your legs
and with every footprint that you leave
there'll be a drop of grace

~Rich Mullins

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Postby Green Leaves » Thu Jan 28, 2010 4:17 pm

If I may, Jan, I'd like to give some examples, coming from a "poet", when I've used BOTH verbs and nouns AND adjectives in poetry to make my point. Then I'd like your feedback on it, okay?

The first, using mostly nouns and verbs, taken from my poem, "The Book Of My Life":

Dip Your pen within my spirit
With heaven's ink still write,
Though my past may hint of darkness
Still my future can be bright.

For the blots are now behind me,
Heaven's hand now writes each script,
And my future's paved with promise
In God's hands I'm firmly gripped.

The second, uses more adjectives, I think. It is taken from my poem, "Jonah" for children:

Three days and nights Jonah lay in his belly,
He prayed to God as his knees turned to jelly.
God saw Jonah's sorrow; He heard and forgave,
The fish coughed him up in the vast briny wave.

Can't you just see it...upchucked by a fish?
Oh, what a delightful, delicious old dish!
But Jonah unharmed swore his God to obey,
And onward he marched praising God all the way.

Would love your input on this, in regard to your lesson here.

Carol Penhorwood
http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=45576

"God has not called me to be successful, God has called me to be faithful." Mother Teresa

"...not to advance in the spiritual life is to go back. But those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.". Brother Lawrence

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Postby semmie » Thu Jan 28, 2010 4:54 pm

Joolz wrote:My free verse, however, relies more on the reader being able to 'feel' what I'm saying, so I am more likely to use several descriptors in a row, though each one may be slightly different in meaning.


Thanks for sharing this, Joolz. I tend to embrace redundancy in my free verse for the same reason. The great thing about poetry is that it leans heavily not only upon the definition of a word, but upon the weight of the word, the rhythm of the word, the sound of the word, and the emotion the word evokes. Poetry of this nature allows you to convey a great deal using only a few words.

How ironic. Whether in poetry or prose, the goal is to be as clear as possible in what you are communicating to your reader.
let mercy lead
let love be the strength in your legs
and with every footprint that you leave
there'll be a drop of grace

~Rich Mullins

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Postby ScarletFury » Thu Jan 28, 2010 6:28 pm

Oooh, can I try? I like the way you explain this...easy to remember. Don't have to "think" think about it. :roll:


Exhaustion rewarded Jan’s endless workday. Twisting her feet out of too-new shoes, she curled her toes while inching toward the kitchen.

Ice.

Cold.

Soda.

Maybe.

Sugar? Yes!

The thoughts twisted over themselves… perhaps there was cake within caverns of the shiny refrigerator.

An exclamation choked in her throat as she stumbled forward. “Ow!” Her aching neck swiveled downwards to see the offender.

A lego.

Swallowing the outburst, Jan retrieved the bothersome square, a renegade remnant, evidence of nephew Teddy’s visit yesterday. Her fingers curled around it until the plastic cut into her palms. Reaching the refrigerator, Jan traded the lego for a slab of chocolate marble cake, leaving the cheery yellow cube in the plastic container, to cower in the darkness of the cool environment.

Rich brown crumbs stuck to her golden-red gingham manicure, a perfect harmony of comfort and sophistication.

A just reward.

Soft chocolate cake, the stiff icing warming in her hand, Jan savored the first forbidden bite. The pleasure complete, her steps turned to the kitchen sink, where she finished the treat in blissful silence. Licking her fingers with solemn expertise, a single sigh pushed past her lips.

Poor little lego cube.


Okay...might be a bit long and completely off tangent here, but I felt really sorry for the lego cube... :roll: :lol:
Sara Harricharan

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Postby Ms. Barbie » Thu Jan 28, 2010 7:09 pm

She's good! ^
Barb Culler

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Postby DanielK » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:42 am

It was an exhausted Jan who staggered into her house at the end of a seemingly endless day at work. She slipped off her dark shoes at the door and plodded unenthusiastically toward the kitchen. All she wanted was an ice-cold soda and something sugary to chew on—perhaps there was some leftover cake in the refrigerator.

“Ow!” she exclaimed, as pain shot up her leg. She lifted up her left foot and discovered the culprit: firmly embedded in her soft heel was a single, minuscule Lego. It had escaped being tidied away after her nephew's visit the day before.

That's my version of it. Hope you like it!

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Postby Green Leaves » Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:01 pm

As I looked over my entry, Jan, I just realized how ridiculous it was to ask that of you. Please accept my apology. I don't know what I was thinking!
Sorry, class! Enough said? :oops:
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"God has not called me to be successful, God has called me to be faithful." Mother Teresa

"...not to advance in the spiritual life is to go back. But those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.". Brother Lawrence

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