Friday, December 17, 2010

Descriptive Seasonings

Adjectives and adverbs - modifiers. We are all familiar with them. And some, like myself, are too familiar with them. When I first became serious about writing my obsession with these modifiers was the first and most frequently pointed out of my many flaws. I would layer them on, one after the other, like a trifle dessert, with the firm belief that it made my writing better. But I couldn't have been more wrong. As Ron Rozelle puts it - it became "inedible."

According to the article "Kill Adjectives and Adverbs" by Melanie L. Martin, the reason for this common writer's issue goes back to our elementary years, when we were encouraged to use adjectives and adverbs in excess. And true to the article's statement my 2nd grade daughter began the use of adjectives. And now, at least one, if not more, must accompany every noun. Is it grammatically incorrect? No. But, how many sentences like, "The big, brown bear ran clumsily through the thick, green, grass," could we take?

So then, how much is too much? Good question, and I won't even pretend to know the answer. However, according to Rozelle, there should be a balance, a gentle sprinkling throughout as oppose to clumps of heavy use. Don't avoid these modifiers, just control them, regulate them.

The following is an excerpt from the book "Description & Setting" by Ron Rozelle in which he gives one of my favorite analogies on this subject.

"Adjectives, along with other modifiers, are the spices that good writers use to flavor their writing. A serving of scrambled eggs is okay all by itself, but it's much more appetizing, in  most peoples' opinion, with salt and pepper sprinkled on and even more so - depending on personal taste and inclination - with paprika or garlic or rosemary or Tabasco sauce. Eggs are good with a little spice or a lot. So is fiction. But remember, food that is not flavored at all might be bland, but when spices are poured on like mad it becomes inedible. So strike a balance between too little and too much, in your cooking and in your description."

Happy writing!

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