What four-year-olds know about muscular storytelling

editing, writing

Following Friday’s post about adverbs, I want to note what my four-year-old knows about good writing.

Yesterday he was climbing into the bathtub for a pretend bath. I was brushing my teeth and watching him. He was wearing all his clothes, and he brought with him his favorite stuffed animal. Here’s what he said:

“Look, daddy, Tiger is going to take a bath. He is dirty. Here you go, Tiger. Here’s your nice bath. Splash splash splash. Wash wash wash. Play play play. Okay, time to get all dry and cozy, Tiger.”

I like that the entirety of my son’s verbal description of the bath itself was nine verbs in a row. That really is the heart of good story telling, isn’t it? Get your reader to the verbs, and make sure they’re good ones. Now for the rest of my day. Write write write. Edit edit edit. Write write write.

Adverb! Oh, adverb! I hate you! You stink!

editing, writing

Last night while I was writing I noticed something insidious: a hidden adverb! We’ve all heard that weak writing relies on adverbs. We’ve all caught ourselves writing about a character “breathing quickly” only to ask ourselves, in near panic, What’s a single verb that means breathing quickly? So imagine my surprise when I reread the following sentence:

As rainwater poured in sheets off the roof beside them…

Poured is decent verb for rain. And “in sheets” helps describe how the rain is—hey, wait a minute! I’m modifying my verb with…duh duh dumm…a hidden adverb! Okay, it’s not technically an adverb, but it’s doing the same work: slowing down my readers and letting me get away with weaker verbs. My solution?

As rainwater sheeted off the roof beside them…

Anyone else discovered a hidden adverb in their writing? Anyone else like talking about sentences?

Here is a very long sentence

editing, writing

It reminded him of a NOVA he’d seen with his father about the Amazon and the Atlantic. The waters join in eddies and turbulence and tides, whorls the colors of coffee and of jade meeting and greeting a new arrangement that, miles from shore, seems natural—inevitable even—but in the swirl of first impressions is confused at best and, at worst, a betrayal of the character of the river that has flowed so far and the ocean that has waited so long. So then: old life, meet new life; new life, old life. You two have a lot to talk about.

Right now it’s sandwiched between some shorter sentences. Want to help me make it better? And no, making it shorter doesn’t count. This sentence needs to stay long.