Beware the overbearing adjective
The large, fluffy cat walked down the dark, dank alley and sniffed the filthy, gray garbage can. What’s wrong with this sentence? Could it be the annoying, prolific adjectives?
I’ve referred to this quote by Mark Twain before but it bears repeating: “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them–then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are far apart.”
An essay full of adjectives sounds contrived, like we’re trying too hard. It is tempting to string together adjectives because you may have learned, like I did, that description is an important part of narrative. Truth is, you can describe more by showing than telling. Consider this and compare to the opening sentence: The cat, fluffy from over-grooming, padded down the alley, her nose in the air, sensing the dead things of the city.
As you edit, be brutal with adjectives. Trust yourself to show your characters through action, not adjectives. Your pen is a surgeon’s knife. Use it well.
Nonfiction theme of the month: introspection
Sometimes the biggest changes in our lives are sparked by the smallest things. It’s natural to want to share your moment of epiphany, but how do you fit a thousand words into two seconds without becoming pedantic and repetitive? Rowan will tell you later on today!
This week’s ultimate question:
Who stole the cheddar?
This optional prompt, which also serves as the ultimate question for the microstory challenge opening Wednesday, is here to serve as your inspiration for your nonfiction submission. Already have your own story thought up? No problem! The prompt is only there if you need it.
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Submit to the yeah write #251 nonfiction challenge
The yeah write #251 weekly writing challenge is now open for nonfiction: personal essays, creative opinion, mostly true stories based on actual events. You can check out the submission guidelines and join us with your essay using the link below.