oh, great one . . . on ruining writing with adverbs

Yesterday afternoon I was reading through a stack of what were supposed to be scenes that included pieces of either eavesdropped or remembered, reconstructed dialogue.  It took a lot of yellow ink, but I wanted them to see for themselves what Lee Gutkind’s yellow-highligher test reveals.  See the parts I’ve highlighted? This is scene. Scene = showing. See the unhighlighted pieces? This is summary. Summary = telling. See where I’ve drawn the vertical line? This is reflection. Reflection = thinking. You don’t want too much summary. 

These are freshmen composition students. The conversations they found fascinating to eavesdrop on, first of all, was surprising. Maybe it was the first time some of them had been given the freedom to play with the rawness of colloquial speech.  What was more troubling, and what kept me awake last night, trying to think of how to say tomorrow, which is now today–this sounds like a 4th grader’s version of the way a dialogue is supposed to sound–were all the adverbs .

And then I remembered the rejectionist’s letter to Trying to Save the World from “Avowed.”

Now. Will I show them the blog? Or not? Their feelings are so easily hurt.

Oh, great one…

My son is in seventh grade, and his teacher is trying to ruin him as a writer. The class is writing personal narratives that must include dialogue, and she’s told them that the word “said” is boring and that they are allowed to use it only once per paper. You can imagine the ludicrous-sounding results. There are other atrocities, too, but this one in particular has my blood boiling. I feel that I need to set her straight before she spawns a whole generation of awful writers. If you were in my shoes, what would you show her/tell her?

Yours,

Trying to Save the World from “Avowed”

“Ha ha ha!” chortled the Rejectionist delightedly, as she industriously perused her day’s emails vigorously. “Here, in a week replete with terrible news, is a little ray of sunlight provided to us by a beloved Author-friend!”

 Do click the link to read the rest of her reply.

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