Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Advice on Writing Flash Fiction, part 2: Verbs and Adverbs

Ed asked me to write this toned down version of a post from my blog, The Other Aaron.

I am by no means a professional writer, and I don't claim to be. I have more to learn about writing than I know, but I'm working on it.

What I am, professionally, is an English teacher. I don't claim to be very good at that, either, but it does afford an opportunity to notice things.

Today's observation: vivid verbs make writing better, and adding adverbs often hurts a sentence.

This observation might seem elementary, but vital to flash fiction where words are at a premium. When the verbs do most of the work, when they are forced to carry most of the meaning, everybody wins.

Think about a simple verb like "run". Suppose your MC needs to vacate the premises, post haste. Maybe the thing in the basement is creeping up the stairs. Does the MC "quickly run" (snooze) or does she "sprint" or "bolt"?

"Janice noticed the black tendrils at the basement door and bolted for the exit."

or "Janice noticed the black tendrils at the basement door and quickly ran for the exit."

In my humble opinion, the first option has better rhythm--it paints a vivid picture in fewer words. Verbs can be your best friends. Adverbs can hinder action.

You have a space limit in flash. Say more with less.

Next up: More Vivid Verbs


Aaron is a high school English teacher and affiliate member of the Horror Writer's Association. His flash fiction can be seen in Macabre Cadaver, Every Day Fiction, and the forthcoming Northern Haunts anthology from Shroud publishing. He was nominated for Kansas Teacher of the Year in 2006. Aaron admits flash is not his favorite thing to write because "it's so damn hard."

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