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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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glorybee
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Postby glorybee » Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:12 pm

Green Leaves, not ridiculous at all! I just don't have much chance to get here from Wed. night through Friday afternoon--babysitting my granddaughter.

I promise I'm not ignoring you! LOL!

I'll respond fully to your post and the other later ones when I get home this afternoon.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Green Leaves » Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:19 pm

No, really, it is okay. Your time is so limited. The others are much more important. I THINK I'm getting the point....

And GRANDCHILDREN always come FIRST, in my book anyway! :lol:
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future discussions

Postby honeyrock » Fri Jan 29, 2010 3:21 pm

For future classes??? There seems to be alot of pieces, especially in the beginning categories where the writers use the first person POV. Obviously, it is appropriate at times, but more often it can give the piece a less than professional flavor, as if it was taken out of a personal journal, rather than crafted.
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Postby glorybee » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:22 am

semmie wrote: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.


Semmie, redundancy isn't the only issue--not at all. It's definitely possible to describe too much. In the very creative passage you just wrote, I'd still eliminate most of the adjectives as just filler. Face it--the passage itself is mundane--a woman arriving home and stepping on a toy--and doesn't really call for over-description. In fact, you'd want to keep such a passage fairly spare, in keeping with the action.

So if I were editing your passage, I'd red-pencil it considerably. Not because the writing isn't good, but because I'd want to get to the really important stuff and because your readers probably don't really care about the leftover Lego.

Because once Jan sits down with her Diet Coke, she's going to open a letter that changes her life. So open it, already!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:30 am

Green Leaves wrote: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


Carol, thanks for being patient!

These poems are delightful! I'd mention the second one in particular in regard to this class--I wouldn't change a thing! First of all, there's definitely more of a place for adjectives and adverbs in poetry--and especially in children's poetry. Children love adjectives, and they help to make the poem more visual for them.

I'm tickled that you shared these with us, and will count on you for the poet's perspective on future classes!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:33 am

Sara, I loved the pacing in the beginning of your re-write--quick and perfect.

But then you got bogged down with some pretty descriptive passages--why is it important to name colors of things? Snip, snip, snip, dear.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:34 am

DanielK wrote: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!


Good one, Daniel!
Jan Ackerson

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Help

Postby flyingcross » Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:29 pm

Hi Jan,
I"ve enjoyed reading this, though got lost on one or two of them, so hope it is still okay to post. I am new, and know I have difficulty with commas, semi-colons etc...so going to the other class too. Anyway, lots to learn, looking for input and okay to pull apart, though be gentle. I am a beginner and acknowledge that, but also a tender young shoot needing a little watering and sunshine along with the fertilizer.
Thanks,
Cindy

Jan shuffled into her house after a seemingly endless day at work. She’d been dreaming of ice cold soda and leftover cake since her breakfast of unbuttered toast.

Slipping off her shoes that seemed two sizes smaller since morning, she gingerly made her way into the kitchen--the cool tile feeling good on her feet. “Ow,” she uttered under her breath. Raising her foot, she looked at a tiny lego like an earring dangling from her heel. Thanks nephew, what a wonderful end to my day.

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Re: Help

Postby glorybee » Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:53 pm

flyingcross wrote: Jan shuffled into her house after a seemingly endless day at work. She’d been dreaming of ice cold soda and leftover cake since her breakfast of unbuttered toast.

Slipping off her shoes that seemed two sizes smaller since morning, she gingerly made her way into the kitchen--the cool tile feeling good on her feet. “Ow,” she uttered under her breath. Raising her foot, she looked at a tiny lego like an earring dangling from her heel. Thanks nephew, what a wonderful end to my day.


Hi, Cindy--welcome! Never too late...

This is a fine re-write, with almost all of the useless junk taken out, and still enough interesting stuff left in. Here are a few "gentle" suggestions:

I'd take out 'seemingly' in the 1st paragraph. Her day wasn't literally endless, sure, but it's understood that that's hyperbole, and it's more effective without the modifier.

I'd leave out 'gingerly' in the 2nd paragraph. Those -ly adjectives don't really add to most sentences, and 'gingerly' implies that she knows there are hazards on the floor.

'Uttered' just means 'said', and isn't really needed there. 'Muttered' would be better, and then you can leave out 'under her breath.

The visual of the Lego dangling is a little bit weird--was there a hook? It seems more likely to me that the Lego would be stuck or embedded than dangling.

That last sentence was great (although I think she'd use his name rather than 'nephew'). It's a fun bit of characterization; it helps the reader to know Jan and her mood, and her reaction to irritation. Could you put it in italics to indicate thought?

So wonderful to see you here, and I hope you'll come back Monday for the next class!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby ScarletFury » Mon Feb 01, 2010 4:13 pm

Okay...I snipped. :lol: I mean, edited. :roll: Take two:


Exhaustion rewarded Jan’s endless workday as she curled her toes, inching toward the kitchen.

Cold.

Soda.

Maybe.

Sugar? Yes!

“Ow!” A grimace accompanied her as she investigated the offender.

A lego.

Swallowing the outburst, Jan retrieved the renegade remnant, evidence of nephew Teddy’s visit yesterday. Her fingers curled around it until the plastic cut into her palms.

In the kitchen, cake cowered within the caverns of the refrigerator where Jan traded the lego for a slice.

Soft cake and stiff icing warmed in her hand as Jan savored the first forbidden bite. Standing at the kitchen sink, she enjoyed the treat in blissful silence.
Sara Harricharan

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Postby glorybee » Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:36 pm

Much better, Sara!
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Postby JesusPuppy » Tue Feb 02, 2010 12:40 pm

Just read this one, and here is my poor attempt. I think I cut it too much. :-(

Exhausted, Jan trudged into her house at the end of a long day at work. She slipped off her shoes at the door and plodded toward the kitchen. All she wanted was an icy soda and something sugary—maybe there was leftover cake in the refrigerator.

“Ow!” she exclaimed, and lifted up her foot to examine what had caused such sudden pain. Embedded in the tender flesh of her heel was one minuscule Lego, left over from her nephew’s visit the previous day.

A lot of the adverbs and stuff I felt were not needed. Yes, it gave a more flowery feel to it, but detracted from the info needed in what was said. Such as the color of her shoe or how the frig looked... I mean really as long as it held that peice of cake. ;-)
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Postby glorybee » Tue Feb 02, 2010 4:57 pm

JesusPuppy wrote:A lot of the adverbs and stuff I felt were not needed. Yes, it gave a more flowery feel to it, but detracted from the info needed in what was said. Such as the color of her shoe or how the frig looked... I mean really as long as it held that peice of cake. ;-)


Exactly right, Pup.

Unfortunately, there wasn't any cake, either.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby srashmi » Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:05 pm

Slinks into class and slips into a corner seat hoping the teacher won't notice her tardiness.




Exhausted from an afternoon of plodding through a stack of barely comprehendible essays, Jan yanked off her boots at the door and shuffled into the kitchen.

Diet Coke and chocolate cake.

“Ow!”

She turned her left foot and squinted at her heel. Embedded firmly in her flesh was a Lego, left over from her nephew’s visit yesterday.

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Postby glorybee » Wed Mar 03, 2010 9:22 am

Excellent, Seema! There's nothing I appreciate more than good, tight writing.

Well, okay. There are a few things I appreciate more. Like chocolate cake and Diet Coke.

But good, tight writing (like this) is still pretty awesome.

Going to pop in on the other classes now, too? I'd love your input.
Jan Ackerson

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