Monday, November 15, 2010

My Enormous Gripe about Current Writing Theory (Plus Pie)

So. This is my current tirade:

What the HECK is with all this sudden hatred of adverbs? Come ON! I mean, it's an entire class of parts of speech?

About a year ago I started noticing this rumbling of, "Oh, avoid adverbs!" and "Adverbs, baaaad!" and "Adverbs are unnecessary if you simply choose a strong enough verb."

At first I thought, well, sure. English is the richest language on earth. English has a plethora of verbs, verbs with almost every nuance, verbs for every need. So, why not? I can just try a lot harder and figure out a perfect verb and do away with these pesky adverbs that seem to annoy writer-types. These adverbs, I am told, practically sear the corneas of editors and agents when they appear on the typed page. Any manuscript with an adverb in the first chapter will be summarily tossed into the slush pile.

Puh-lease. Adverbs. They tell us how, they tell us when. They tell us where. They tell us in what manner. We need them in descriptive writing. We need them as readers to conjure up images of what is going on in the story. We need them to give setting to our story's action and to give us a richness of language.

Here's my confession:


Now, I can see if paragraph after paragraph of a story were riddled with -ly adverbs, and the only verbs a writer chose were "walked" and "said" and the like, then it could be annoying. That MS could get a "Go to Slush Pile, Go Directly to Slush Pile, Do not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 in Royalties" pass. However, a well-chosen adverb is not indicative of an underlying chronic or terminal illness in a writer's style!

I think it must go back to the "moderation in all things" edict. Too much of a good thing, ain't. But I'm simply not prepared to concede that an adverb is a bad thing. Absolutely not! (In fact, imagine how it would be if I'd just put not, and left the "absolutely" off. I'd sound like a Saturday Night Live '90s reject instead.)

There. I feel better now that I've vented all that frustration into the blogosphere.

Other beautiful things that need venting are baked potatoes (which I learned the hard way when I didn't prick enough holes in mine recently and had a big explosion in my oven) and ... yes! Thanksgiving fruit pies! I think this year I am going to make a blueberry pie to take to the annual Griffith pie celebration. Last year I made the mistake of using regular blueberries, when I think wild blueberries would have been much tastier. So, I'll vent that crust (or even do a lattice crust) and give it another go!

I love a lattice top pie.
 Every year the Griffith family celebrates our pilgrim heritage with pies. LOTS of pies. A staggering number of pies. I can't wait. Every year my father calls me and asks for "The Pie Count." This is more than just the number of pies at the Griffith Thanksgiving dinner. It also encompasses the ratio of pies to people. A good year is when there is a ratio greater than 1:1. One year there were 51 pies for 35 people. I think that was a record. Possibly the happiest, most delicious record EVER set in food history. Mmm.

I'm also making a bunch of chocolate cream pies, perhaps a vanilla cream, and my new favorite: a coconut cream. My daughter requested apple, but I might leave that to more capable hands. One year my husband made a tangerine pie. I'm sorry to report it was not a success. He does make a good dark chocolate cream.

Vanilla Cream Heaven
There. Thoughts of food have brought me back down from the ledge. Food has that power over me. Yessss.

Coconut Cream. I can't wait for Thanksgiving!


  1. Aahhh. . . I needed that small taste of cotton candy. Of course, in journalism, we are discouraged from using even the fun verbs. Sometimes when I want to say, "She screeched" or " He huffed," I can't. But I still think those words. Can't stop me; can't stop me!

  2. All I did was read the title and I was laughing. Where else but on your blog can you learn about current writing theory AND pie! I love it.
    Every time I come to your blog I think, man, my blog really needs a theme...

  3. Thanks, Aimee & Melinda.
    Update: husband has been blogstalking me and now feels he must reclaim pie dominance by making a success of a tangerine pie. Stay tuned. He has two recipes in hand.

  4. Oh, man! You are making me SO VERY painfully, exquisitely, inconsolably hungry with all those rich, scrumptious-looking, colorful, inviting pie photos!

    Sorry. I meant to use more adverbs instead of adjectives but my blood sugar is too low.

  5. Ha ha ha, Christmas Books, you make me laugh. I am totally very utterly completely ashamed to admit I ate 5 pieces of coconut cream pie. My diet may never ever ever ever recover. (Is that enough adverbs crammed into two sentences for ya?)


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