Monday, December 12, 2011

Literary litany: take this advice as sacred truth

  • Nouns and verbs tell the story.
    • Nouns and verbs are the power words in every language.
    • Nouns and verbs provide the clarity of detail and the drama of action. (Think of how headlines can convey an entire tale: PITBULL BITES BOY. FATHER STRANGLES DOG.)

  • Use adjectives sparingly.
    • Tiny doses add texture and color. Overdosing distracts from the power words (nouns and verbs) that tell the story of people and things interacting.

  • Weak verbs need the crutch of adverbs. Strong verbs stride on their own.
    • She set down the mug angrily and coffee spilled over.
    • She slammed down the mug and coffee sloshed out.

  • Vivid writing is concrete, not abstract.
    • Choose specific (not generic) nouns and verbs. Even with metaphors and similes, select precise nouns and potent verbs. "She eats like a bird." What kind of bird? A sparrow, a vulture, a falcon?

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