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Archive for October 26th, 2009

Write Like a Pro — Avoid Adverbs Oct 26

Every day this week I’ll be posting a new article on common mistakes screenwriters make.

NoAdverbsToday’s topic is adverbs — you know, those flowery words that usually end in “ly.” Words like: quickly, haphazardly, vastly, very, annoyingly… etc. They describe verbs or adjectives. These words are great if you’re writing a novel, but they can brand you as an amateur if you use them extensively in your scene description. (In the last script I wrote, I didn’t use a single one)

“But why?” you ask eagerly. “I genuinely love adverbs. They give me that wonderfully fuzzy feeling.”

It’s simple. It’s often the mark of a lazy screenwriter. Our job is to write only what you can see and hear, in a succinct, clever and accurate way. That requires coming up with the perfect verb or adjective to describe the scene. And usually that’s enough.

Instead of:

The Grinch moves stealthily across the floor like a frighteningly evil cat.

You could use:

The Grinch creeps across the floor like a demonic cat.


The Grinch slinks across the floor like a possessed cat.

You get the idea. Get rid of the adverbs if you can and use better verbs and adjectives. I could have just eliminated “stealthily” and kept “moves,” but “moves” is too simple of a verb. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

Sometimes, though, you can simply eliminate the adverb and still achieve the same effect. In a script I read recently, the writer had used something like, “… grossly gnarled hand.” If a hand is gnarled, the “grossly” part is redundant. After all, I’ve never seen a beautifully gnarled hand.

Remember, the no-adverb rule only applies to scene description. Go nuts in dialogue, etc. if it feels authentic.

Category: Style  | 2 Comments
Essential Reading for Screenwriters Oct 26

Save The Cat, by Blake Snyder The scriptwrecked bookstore is now online!

I’ve created a special list of books that I believe every screenwriter should have in their collection. If you click on the link for each book, you’ll find reviews, descriptions and even a personal introduction by yours truly.

For those of you who are already familiar with the “Essential Books” (or are just more partial to things that spin) I’ve also set up a carousel of rotating reads at the top of the page. There you’ll find some other top rated screenwriting books that I’ve personally vetted and feel are worthy of your time.

Did I miss any of your favorites? Disagree with my picks? Let me know.

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Category: Book Reviews  | 2 Comments