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Home » Archives » August 2007 » Respectfully Disagreeing
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08/02/2007: Respectfully Disagreeing

Good writing teachers have some very good advice about adverbs. "Eliminate adverbs!" "They just prop up weak verbs!" "Cut 'em out!"

Yes, that's what the good teachers say. But not me! I'm here to give you down-and-dirty practical advice. And I say use some adverbs. Writing a script is unlike any other writing enterprise. All you get to do in a script is say what people do and what people say. You don't get to engage in long word-beautiful examinations of motivations. All that stuff has to be clear from the actions and the spoken words. So being able to convey HOW the actions are taken and HOW the words are spoken is vitally important.

Sure, it's better to say he "shoves the ticket at her" than that he "hands the ticket to her forcefully." That's true. Great verbs are invaluable. But if my leading man is gazing at my leading woman, I'd sure like to hear whether he's doing it "helplessly," or "absently" and I can't think of a way to enverb that difference. And if my hero picks up a sword, I love that I can convey something different if she picks it up "defiantly," versus "with an air of tragic obligation." All sort of adverbial options are interesting, and they all paint different pictures, some with charmingly subtle differences. The boundary between something said "smoothly" and the same thing said "insinuatingly" is a nice oily line, isn't it?

There are great adverbs out there, and wonderful adverbial phrases. Just think of the things that can be done jauntily, morosely or with loads and loads of smarm. Scripts aren't like other works of prose. We already labor under so many restrictions that to cut ourselves off from a whole part of speech is to go too far! To the barricades! Swiftly!

Lunch: heirloom tomato sweet onion salad from the nice commissary


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