The Word Game

Never spill the beans. Serve it.

A story is a group of sentences given direction. A sentence is made up of two things: nouns and verbs. Adverbs and adjectives can go along with them, but are, for the most part, unnecessary. But I’m not saying that you should never use them! I’m just saying that mean the former two must be prioritized over the latter two. Sure, being as descriptive as you can such as when describing a sunset or a hawk swooping down on its prey or an AK-47 toting velociraptor on a rhino is nice, but just save adjectives and adverbs for when most needed. Take, for example, this sentence:

Michael walked down the hall angrily with eyes the color of a gathering storm.

Firstly, I’m not sure about the color of a gathering storm, but I assume that it’s greyish…with swirls around the iris? That aside, I think that the adverb disrupted the flow of the sentence because the verb walk has a mildly pleasant tone. Therefore, a change in verb seems to be in order, one that should still convey the same message.

Michael stomped down the hall.

Not only is “stomped” a word, in the readers head it also serves as an onomatopea. You still get the idea that this Michael is angry–storm brewing up in his eyes–and you got rid of the adverb. You made it shorter too. It’s like how, instead of “The door closed noisily” can just be “The door slammed shut”. “Slammed” as you can hear in your head is an onomatopea-tic adjective, so not only does it shorten the sentence, it also gives the reader a more vivid idea of what’s happening. Remember: the words you use still affect the way the readers “hear” the sentence in their heads. Of course, running out of these words is inevitable. That’s where the thesaurus comes in. When groping for words that serve multiple purposes, simply refer to the thesaurus. I love the thesaurus.

Next, the Cause-and-Effect Rule. It isn’t enough that you state a verb; sometimes, you have to tell the reader what happened after. “The door slammed shut.” …What happened next? Maybe a sleeping dog woke up, or, in Mr. Bean’s case, a painting fell. Let’s say a vase fell instead. “The door slammed shut, and the vase beside it wobbled off its pedestal and shattered on the floor.”  And then the gun-toting velociraptor on a rhino crashes in from the window and tells Mr. Bean of his destiny. “Save the cheerleader,” the reptilian prophet said.

Though readers inherently want to be challenged to paint the book’s world for themselves (speaking as an avid reader myself), it is still the writer’s duty to guide them where to go. Meaning, don’t spoon-feed the reader, but at the same time do not leave him or her completely alone. It’s your world they’re in. Serve the beans.

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