Thursday, July 05, 2007
Screenwriter Secrets of Effective Storytelling!
Part 1: The Language (continued)
#3 - To [adverb] or not to [adverb]
Adverbs ("The part of speech that modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb") are used in screenplays, but sparingly. Used well, they can provide sparks in the reader's mind. Used badly (aka "too often") they're mud caking up on your boots. Weighing you down. Bringing "what happens next" to a halt.
Many storytellers, especially those of us seldom called upont to exercise our skills, can rely on adverbs to give extra emotional weight to the story. But what we don't realize is very often the facts of the story carry a significant amount of that weight already. Just by telling the simple, unadorned story itself, we can create the most compelling pictures in the reader's mind.
The problem with adverbs is that they dictate one way of looking at an incident, and remove the audience's ability to provide their own vision. Used heavily, adverbs limit the reader's creativity. They weigh you down.
In the "Aliens" example, there are two well-placed adverbs: blindingly and silently. And they aren't used metaphorically. They actually describe the effect on the audience's two senses - seeing and hearing.
Earlier, I said I fall into this trap too. I did in this post. In the sentence beginning "Many storytellers..." I first wrote "can rely heavily on adverbs..." When I proofed the post, I took my own advice, and deleted "heavily." And I think the sentence is all the better for it.