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Describe Things Without Adjectives or Adverbs (1 Viewer)

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EternalGreen

Senior Member
"A presence jumped off the gallery and hit the sidewalk. It’s chest curled from the center, revealing an organ with a row of teeth, gasping into the air. Protrusions jutted from it’s shoulders, which it grated along the window beside it."

This is complete nonsense, but I think I've given a picture of a horrid abomination without the use of a single adjective or adverb.

Adjectives and adverbs strike me more and more as "telling" words. If you saw the creature above and you had describe it so someone, you'd probably just use adjectives.

Either way, it's fun to try describing things to the same effect without adverbs and adjectives from time to time (although I find that I hate the voice it produces).
 

Joker

Senior Member
Reminds me of the Thing.

Yeah, adverbs are usually just filler words. "He ran quickly." "She screeched shrilly."

Really? No shit.
 

PiP

Staff member
Co-Owner
"A presence jumped off the gallery and hit the sidewalk. It’s chest curled from the center, revealing an organ with a row of teeth, gasping into the air. Protrusions jutted from it’s shoulders, which it grated along the window beside it."

This is complete nonsense, but I think I've given a picture of a horrid abomination without the use of a single adjective or adverb.

Adjectives and adverbs strike me more and more as "telling" words. If you saw the creature above and you had describe it so someone, you'd probably just use adjectives.

Either way, it's fun to try describing things to the same effect without adverbs and adjectives from time to time (although I find that I hate the voice it produces).

I disagree.

What type of presence? a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen. So does it makes the rest redundant?
can you smell it? Hear it?

What about its chest? large, small, hairy, cavernous
Organ? Large, small
Row of teeth? Colour, large small, pointed, uneven, color etc Do teeth really gasp into the air?
What type of protrusions? like... simile
 
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Phil Istine

WF Veterans
"A presence jumped off the gallery and hit the sidewalk. It’s chest curled from the center, revealing an organ with a row of teeth, gasping into the air. Protrusions jutted from it’s shoulders, which it grated along the window beside it."

This is complete nonsense, but I think I've given a picture of a horrid abomination without the use of a single adjective or adverb.

Adjectives and adverbs strike me more and more as "telling" words. If you saw the creature above and you had describe it so someone, you'd probably just use adjectives.

Either way, it's fun to try describing things to the same effect without adverbs and adjectives from time to time (although I find that I hate the voice it produces).

It can be achieved if the appropriate verbs exist. Also, altering the nouns can be effective if you wish to convey something descriptive via that noun. A piece can be greatly strengthened. However, it's often the case that the verbs (and nouns) don't exist or that they are too obscure for many readers, so pull them out of the story.

"A presence jumped off the gallery and hit the sidewalk. It’s chest curled from the center, revealing an organ with a row of teeth, gasping into the air. Protrusions jutted from it’s shoulders, which it grated along the window beside it."

A possible alternative below?

"The form leapt from the gallery and shattered the sidewalk below. Its chest opened to reveal an aperture with teeth, tombstones through which it drew gasps of air. Its shoulders tensed, and their spikes scratched along a window, as if trying to etch a message into the glass."
 

Kyle R

WF Veterans
IMO, adverbs and adjectives are like anything in writing: they're useful in some places, but not so much in others.

It's great to aim for precision and impact with your words, (and I agree that, a lot of times, adjectives and adverbs can be trimmed away). But if you find that your prose becomes stiff or unnatural (just to avoid the use of adjectives or adverbs), then it's worth asking if you're really improving the writing . . . or just trying to force it through a sieve. :-k
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
It's your tool kit. What do you want to say? How best it fits? Wanna be bludgeoned by the blunt end of an ampersand? Just don't try to hammer home with screwdriver.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
"A presence jumped off the gallery and hit the sidewalk. It’s chest curled from the center, revealing an organ with a row of teeth, gasping into the air. Protrusions jutted from it’s shoulders, which it grated along the window beside it."

This is complete nonsense, but I think I've given a picture of a horrid abomination without the use of a single adjective or adverb.

Adjectives and adverbs strike me more and more as "telling" words. If you saw the creature above and you had describe it so someone, you'd probably just use adjectives.

Either way, it's fun to try describing things to the same effect without adverbs and adjectives from time to time (although I find that I hate the voice it produces).

I think - and I think you are a good candidate for this - that some of the strength can come from verbs, so I chucked in some perhaps rather OTT humdingers here to help oomph them up. But don't forget metaphors and such too.


"A presence leapt - a demon's movement, off the gallery and slammed the sidewalk. Its chest brambled up from the center, disbursing an organ with a graveyard of teeth, gasping into the air. Protrusions branched from it’s shoulders, which it scrabble-scratch-screeched along the window beside it."
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
That is VERY over the top, yes.

I'm tempted to use "scrabble-scratch-screeched" in a sentence, haha (and then get thrown back into the slush pile).

I've heard writers suggest that "interesting verbs" are seldom interesting. I disagree.

"slammed" is good. (although it's a little too hearty for the creature I had in mind)

"bramble" is okay

"disbursing" is not so great

"branched" is nice (I always like to describe apparently static things with verbs other than "exist". "apples occupied the table")
 

ppsage

WF Veterans
No-modifier revisions are great for finding more suitable vocabulary and for refining scene content but often the best final language involves putting some back. Modifiers of whatever ilk, however, must modify their object to be justified. A verb or a noun, in itself, evokes in the reader an image, somewhat default. Thus, saying someone ran quickly is a total waste of verbiage. Even ran gracefully may not specify sufficiently to be useful. But perhaps ran convulsively will be the least clumsy construction to get across a specific action. Sometimes the default can be a bit irrational. Apples are all different colors, but saying red apple probably changes few readers' existing vision. Green apple quite possibly does, but contains a fatal ambiguity and will require additional context. Rotten apple though, is so specific a modification as to be enshrined almost as some kind of compound noun form, especially in metaphorical usage. DFW I think it was who said modifiers ought to fight with their objects a bit, (he probably said a lot actually.) I doubt he was the first.
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
That is VERY over the top, yes.

I'm tempted to use "scrabble-scratch-screeched" in a sentence, haha (and then get thrown back into the slush pile).

I've heard writers suggest that "interesting verbs" are seldom interesting. I disagree.

"slammed" is good. (although it's a little too hearty for the creature I had in mind)

"bramble" is okay

"disbursing" is not so great

"branched" is nice (I always like to describe apparently static things with verbs other than "exist". "apples occupied the table")

Lol, yes, I was clean out of ideas by the time I got to "scrabble-scratch-screeched" so I just, you know, grenaded it in.

I'm glad you mentioned that point about things existing. One of my pet peeves is writing that says in effect, for example: "Treelike, the live oak was busily standing." I mean, if one is going to say that, at least woo-hoo it up.
 

TheManx

Senior Member
A dark, foreboding presence jumped swiftly off the high gallery and hit the hard, concrete sidewalk. It’s massive chest curled slowly from a viscous, spongy center revealing a hideous, undulating organ completely rimmed by a circular row of jagged, pointy teeth, while gasping furiously into the still, humid air, which hung thickly in the moonless, late summer night. Scaly, gray-green protrusions jutted sharply from its enormously wide shoulders, which loudly and persistently grated along the darkened windows lining the quiet, vacant street of mostly small specialty shops and tony, overpriced restaurants.
 
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Kyle R

WF Veterans
A dark, foreboding presence jumped swiftly off the high gallery and hit the hard, concrete sidewalk. It’s massive chest curled slowly from a viscous, spongy center revealing a hideous, undulating organ completely rimmed by a circular row of jagged, pointy teeth, while gasping furiously into the still, humid air, which hung thickly in the moonless, late summer night. Scaly, gray-green protrusions jutted sharply from its enormously wide shoulders, which loudly and persistently grated along the darkened windows lining the quiet, vacant street of mostly small specialty shops and tony, overpriced restaurants.

I know you intentionally slapped adverbs/adjectives onto everything, but I actually kind of . . . like it? :D
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
A dark, foreboding presence jumped swiftly off the high gallery and hit the hard, concrete sidewalk. It’s massive chest curled slowly from a viscous, spongy center revealing a hideous, undulating organ completely rimmed by a circular row of jagged, pointy teeth, while gasping furiously into the still, humid air, which hung thickly in the moonless, late summer night. Scaly, gray-green protrusions jutted sharply from its enormously wide shoulders, which loudly and persistently grated along the darkened windows lining the quiet, vacant street of mostly small specialty shops and tony, overpriced restaurants.

Outrageous. :lol:
 

TheManx

Senior Member
For me, it comes naturally. I recently had a double adjective cull and it was a proper clearout of a proper infestation.

Sure, I always have to go back and weed some out, even though I feel like I should know better. I remember one of my first short stories -- it came back from the teacher covered in red ink, most of it through extraneous adverbs and adjectives -- "crept quietly" is one I remember distinctly... :)
 
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Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Ok so for some of us even adjectives can help. Here's a classification from a book: color, size, shape, number. Look for synonyms when you think of the ordinary. Adjectives may even convey mood and feeling. There is also: smell, taste, texture/temperature, sounds like or sounds, inner feelings (emotions). To articulate it consult the thesaurus and use a picture. Not all I us have the experience of someone who can describe. If you need examples eternal green let me know. Not all adjective classifications have been discovered. So when you see a book describe it by using the adjective+noun and where phrase (prepositional phrase). In other words where it is located. There are over thirty prepositions in the english language. This is from a book on expressive writing. I included the main categories.
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
Actually, writing that badly is a lot harder than it looks.



"The weather beaten trail wound ahead into the dust racked climes of the baren land which dominates large portions of the Norgolian empire. Age worn hoof prints smothered by the sifting sands of time shone dully against the dust splattered crust of earth. The tireless sun cast its parching rays of incandescense from overhead, half way through its daily revolution. Small rodents scampered about, occupying themselves in the daily accomplishments of their dismal lives. Dust sprayed over three heaving mounts in blinding clouds, while they bore the burdonsome cargoes of their struggling overseers."
 

Gamer_2k4

WF Veterans
That is VERY over the top, yes.

I'm tempted to use "scrabble-scratch-screeched" in a sentence, haha (and then get thrown back into the slush pile).

I've heard writers suggest that "interesting verbs" are seldom interesting. I disagree.

"slammed" is good. (although it's a little too hearty for the creature I had in mind)

"bramble" is okay

"disbursing" is not so great

"branched" is nice (I always like to describe apparently static things with verbs other than "exist". "apples occupied the table")

Interesting verbs are incredibly important in writing. The bulk of a writer's skill lies in determining the perfect word for the situation, and that's where these verbs come in. Sure, you could say someone walked. Or you could say they paced, shuffled, tiptoed, marched, or any of another number of words that more clearly indicate what's actually happening, at the cost of no extra words. Plus, they get rid of those adverbs that are apparently so terrible (but, like any tool in writing, are fine when used judiciously).
 
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