This week: Don't Say That!Edited by: Octobersun
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Dear Authors, I am Octobersun and I will be your guest editor today.
Don't Say That!
The many words that aren't available to you.
When did this madness start?
When you were in school, learning how to wield the English language in writing, you were taught about the eight parts of speech. One of those types of word groups is adjectives.
An adjective is a word or phrase naming an attribute, added to or grammatically related to a noun to modify or describe it. That means, you use an adjective to give your world colors, tastes, textures, etc. These words are important to make your fiction writing rich in imagery. In other words, adjectives help you to "show, don't tell."
This sounds as if adjectives are a writer's best friend. For some reason, many reviewers will tell you to "get rid of at least half of your adjectives" as a one-size-fits-all comment about your writing. I've seen that phrase in one form or another so many times, but never followed up by exact examples from the text at hand that I wonder: When did this madness start? Who said this? Why did they say this? And why would we listen to that bit of anonymous advice?
As a reader, I always feel I benefit from a fictional text rich in descriptions of what I see. Some types of fiction are prone to higher amounts of adjectives. YA Romance for instance will use boatloads of adjectives to describe eye colors, eye shapes, length of eye lashes, color of skin, how the hair curls and so much more. Maybe some of those descriptions are over the top, but isn't that what being romantically interested feels like? Over the top?
As you read a text and have the urge to type up that one-size-fits-all phrase about "drop half the adjectives" ask yourself if you're not just writing that because you actually don't care about the story and what it describes. Have you really interacted with the characters and the world they have to live in? Don't you like to see, hear, smell, touch, and feel it? And if you feel that there is a description that is too much, tell the writer which one specifically and why it needs to go. Then, and only then would it be fair to tell a writer that they are too descriptive for your taste. That is also the only way that a writer will be able to understand and (possibly) agree with your review.
So, if you want to write about bright blue fairies with yellow see-through wings that are speckled with dusty red spots or just fairies is up to you. If a reader feels they shouldn't know about the dusty red spots, then that raises the question why they are reading your writing. Or, at what point would it be okay with them to find out that the fairie has dusty red specks on its yellow see-through wings.
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For my last For Authors newsletter "Write Like Nobody Knows You" , I received the following comments:
Warped Sanity wrote: You are so correct about the flash fiction suggestion. Having a lower word count to word count does help with learning how to better differentiate what details are needed to show the story and what is irrelevant.
We should all write some flash fiction regularly and see how feature packed we can make just a few words.
Vivian wrote: I love your title. It certainly grabbed my attention. -- Viv
Thank you so much! That is possibly the best compliment I can get for my writing. Titles are my weakness, so hearing that this one grabbed your attention is a real achievement for me.
Monty wrote: Write like nobody knows me? Thought that must be what I was doing..
Ha ha ha.
Editing is BLUE wrote: I was told I had too many characters in my book. I realized they all wanted their story so I put a Family Tree at the beginning. This was a reference point if anyone got lost, they could remind themselves who that character was and their relationship to the Main Characters.
Great technique. I think that is a very good way to help your readers and your characters both.
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