I Can Forgive Some Adverbs, But Not All Adverbs

(Reader’s Guide: I am putting in bold font all of the times I’ve used adverbs in my blog post, so you can see if I’m right or wrong)

When I write, it’s a fast-paced mess. It’s like if you put a jet engine on a ‘98 Honda Civic that has a lot of structural problems. I race through everything that I do in this dangerous way, making a huge mess and then assessing the damage once my goal word count of 500 is reached.

The reason I’m making that horrible metaphor is because once I’ve finished doing doughnuts in the Civic, there are usually a lot of adverbs in my work. Even in that sentence, “usually.” Now, I am of the Stephen King persuasion that adverbs make a piece of writing look like a 5th grader’s essay on George Washington. They stink.

Here is Stephen King on the subject because it’s so well-written:

Someone out there is now accusing me of being tiresome and anal-retentive. I deny it. I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late.” (Source article for this thing so no one sues me.)

My perspective is similar, but with an *asterisk attached to it. Because I believe that sometimes adverbs can be appropriate, and sometimes verbs can be done with a certain flair that warrants them.

For example, I’m listening to Lord of the Rings on audiobook because I have no control over my life, I’m working three jobs, I’m lonesome, and I just want to hear about forest journeys and hobbits between the drive to work and home.

Tolkien uses a lot of adverbs. Too many. But sometimes I feel that they make sense.

For example, one scene included a description of Sam “whistling softly.” Sam could simply be whistling, but the degree of which he whistles helps create an image. I think of a person sort of just blowing through their lips, maybe even spitting through their lips, because we all have the ability to push air out of our mouth with great force or little force.

I like that Sam is whistling softly. In this case, it’s because they are travelling through the forest and trying not to be noticed by evil Mordor riders. It makes me think that Sam is afraid. Sometimes a verb can be accomplished in a certain style, and when done well and in limited quantity, I like it.

Now, I know this is the blog of a person who writes erotica. What does this have to do with anything? I feel like the genre, a homegrown kind of thing, is bogged down by adverbs. “She says seductively,” “he pushes his cock fiercely into her cunt,” etc. I think we could do better. I think we can all delete (some) adverbs and slow down our Civics.

Thank you.