Development, increase, growth, advance, gain, improvement, promotion, breakthrough, step, forward, advancement, progression, headway, betterment, amelioration.
As a result of the adverb debacle last week, which if you haven’t read, it’s here, I’ve now stumbled into another literature-based quandary – that of body language.
Gone are the days when I could just say something was undertaken slowly, or angrily, or happily or any other convenient adverb that summed up the context nicely and succinctly. Now I have to describe and imply. Which is fine, but there are only so many times people can scoff, shake their heads or roll their eyes.
To remedy this, I’ve spent the last week trying to take more of an interest in body language, and as a result, I’m starting to question whether it actually makes up 90% of communication.
Yes, in a dramatic scene when emotions are running high, there is plenty of arm flailing, gasping and swooning, especially if you’re writing a Jane Austin novel. But when two people are sat in a chair opposite one another chatting, the only thing I have so far noticed is “John agreed, swivelling his chair from side to side in a manner that implied that he agreed.”
Not the most compelling of implication I agree, as I’m basically just inferring how smooth the rotation is in the new office chair is, which I think detracts from John concurring.
Thankfully, I’m not writing an office based period piece, but the point still remains.
There is another issue when trying to note body language which is that it diverts your attention away from the conversation. So instead of listening intently, I’m staring the person down, studying the smallest of body language ticks. Which inevitably results in me ignoring their question and the person scoffing, shaking their heads and rolling their eyes – and I’ve used enough of those already.
Adverbs. Who would have thought these pesky little grammatical creatures could be such a nuisance? On the surface, they sound quite fun, almost like a useful tool when one verb just won’t do. Say, if you were running juggling.
I was vaguely aware of their existence but wasn’t entirely sure what they were. Similar to Vitamin B, I know it exists and probably plays a role in my life, but I have no idea where it comes from or what it is.
For those of you who don’t know – and there’ll be at least one person, it can’t just be me – an adverb is something that modifies the meaning of a verb or adjective.
he moved quickly,
his heart beat furiously
The ‘ly’ word is modifying the verb ‘ran’ and ‘beat’ and gives it context. I always thought it was quite useful until I found out that it also provides a context of the type of writer, i.e. not a very good one.
Now, just like you, I initially scoffed at this suggestion – I play by my own rules, baby. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. It can be considered a lazy form of writing, telling as opposed to showing the reader. A strong verb is better than a week verb with an adverb thrown in to beef it up.
Using our earlier examples:
his heart pounded
It provides a better sense of context without spelling it out. As Stephen King apparently says “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
(Hopefully, by this point you’ll get the little joke I snuck into that sentence)
Now, I bring all this up because this nugget of grammatical knowledge would have been useful to know about six months ago, when I started writing a collection of horror stories. This post was meant to be an announcement of my new website and a load of books you were now able to download and buy.
Instead, I’m having to go through seven novellas removing 95% of words that end in “ly” and replace them with more interesting verbs. I guess it’s all part of the learning curve.
‘A lightweight camping mug, well I do have one already, but this one is insulated.’
‘A climbing knife, for cutting rope. I don’t have one of those. Quite cheap too.’
‘A woman’s ultralight, breathable running jacket. Well, my jacket is starting to lose its waterproofing.’
‘Spray-on waterproofing… I think I’d rather just have a new coat.’
This is how I now spend several hours a day. I currently have a part-time job at an outdoor shop uploading products onto their website, and I’m starting to understand how these types of stores can be so lucrative.
There is something about the outdoor industry that entices you to buy more. There is always something lighter, warmer, faster (yes, companies often describe their produces with verbs) available that is just a bit better than the thing you bought last week.
I’m currently sat in a financially dangerous place. Firstly, I’m quite suggestive, meaning that it doesn’t take a great deal to convince me of something. Personally, like to reframe it as, ‘seeing the good in people’ – because, why would someone lie? Unfortunately, most people would generally call it gullible, which used to be the standard term until sometime in the mid-nineties when it was revised to something less derogatory.
Secondly, part of the job is listing out all the reasons why a particular product is so good. So I’m sat there uploading details of an essential, don’t leave home without, game-changing, sexy pack of tent pegs, wondering how many I could buy with this week’s pay.
It’s a terrible combination, especially when my impulsiveness is added to the mix. Meaning that in the week since I have worked there, all I have to show for it is two pairs of running shoes (I don’t run), a foam matt for my knees when I’m kneeling around my cooking stove (because the ground can be wet sometimes), a pack of sporks (which in fairness, are awesome) and this blog.
I don’t understand how starting a new job has resulted in me having less money.