Examples of adjectives from top authors’ novels

Dear friends and writers,

NowNovel has inspired me again. How wretched are my adjectives. Underused through ignorance  and lack of use. Today this will change.  May you see your writing through fresh eyes as well.

Enjoy  . . .    Examples of adjectives from top authors’ novels

Read examples of adjectives from top authors’ novels | Now Novel

Adjectives – words that describe nouns or pronouns – add specificity and detail to writing. The literal definition of adjective is ‘throw towards’, from the Latin prefix ad- (towards) and the verb jacere (throw). That’s what great describing words do: They ‘throw’ readers into your fictional world; let them see, hear, taste it. Read adjective examples from works by esteemed authors that show how to be creative with your descriptions:

1. Reveal characters with strong describing words: Charles Dickens

The Victorian author Charles Dickens is a master of creating vivid, characterful protagonists, villains and supporting characters. When we first meet the sister of the narrator and hero Pip in Great Expectations (1861), the character Mrs Joe, this is how Dickens describes her:
‘My sister, Mrs. Joe, with black hair and eyes, had such a prevailing redness of skin that I sometimes used to wonder whether it was possible she washed herself with a nutmeg-grater instead of soap. She was tall and bony, and almost always wore a coarse apron, fastened over her figure behind two loops, and having a square impregnable bib in front, that was stuck full of pins and needles. She made it a powerful merit in herself, and a strong reproach against [her husband] Joe, that she wore this apron so much.’ (p. 8)

Dickens’ use of adjectives is masterful. Note that he doesn’t just fixate on the colours of Mrs Joe’s features, as an amateur writer might. She does have ‘black’ hair and eyes. From here the description immediately gets more interesting. Dickens could simply describe Mrs’s Joe’s ‘red skin’. The phrase ‘redness of skin’ instead uses a ‘noun + preposition + noun’ construction. This is grammar we use to express a vague measurable quantity (e.g. ‘a cup of tea’ or ‘strand of hair’). The effect (combined with Pip wondering if she uses a nutmeg-grater to wash) is comical.

Dickens returns to simple adjectives when he describes Mrs Joe’s physique (‘tall and bony’). He then describes an item of her clothing in detail to convey Mrs Joe’s character.
Her apron is ‘coarse’, but the word ‘impregnable’ is genius. It’s clever because on one hand, it suggests toughness, in the meaning ‘unable to be pierced.’ The always-worn apron is like a suit of armour for stern Mrs Joe. It also has the dual meaning of ‘inability to conceive or fall pregnant’, suggesting the absence of maternal attributes.

Similarly, when you choose adjectives to describe your characters:

Don’t just describe eye colour: What do characters’ complexions, clothing, posture and other details say about them? The irritated redness of Mrs Joe’s skin tone and her fort-like apron suggest an irritable, tough nature, as Dickens proceeds to show
Describe clothing details so they reinforce characters’ personalities. For example, the reproachful, long-suffering way Mrs Joe wears her apron

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2. Describe places clearly: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez has a skill for rich description, even read in translation. In this description of Dr. Urbino’s library from Love in the time of Cholera (1985), notice how Marquez mixes simple adjectives with characters’ superstitions and actions to show how his characters live in time and place:

‘Unlike the other rooms, which were at the mercy of noise and foul winds from the port, the library always enjoyed the tranquility and fragrance of an abbey. Born and raised in the Carribean superstition that one opened doors and windows to summon a coolness that in fact did not exist, Dr. Urbino and his wife at first felt their hearts oppressed by enclosure. But in the end they were convinced of the merits of the Roman strategy against heat, which consists of closing houses during the lethargy of August in order to keep out the burning air from the street, and then opening them up completely to the night breezes.’ (p. 19)

Marquez evokes sound and smell (the ‘noise’ and ‘foul’ winds from the port). He uses the ‘noun + of + noun’ construction we read in Mrs Joe’s ‘redness of skin’ to describe the library’s smell that resembles a place of worship. The same goes for the ‘lethargy of August’. Marquez then uses simple adjectives again to describe times of day – the day’s ‘burning’ air and the ‘night’ breezes.

Thus while Marquez uses simple adjectives to describe the elements (‘foul winds’ and ‘night breezes’), he also uses more complex descriptions. Like Dickens he uses nouns modifying nouns (‘lethargy of August’) to describe in more general, abstract terms. These descriptions show everything from times of year to comparisons between the Urbinos’ private library and a place of worship.

To choose good adjectives to describe places:

Describe to involve different senses: Sight, sound, smell, touch

Use other describing words (such as noun modifiers). For example, you can use a noun with a modifying phrase to describe a character’s face: ‘He had a face for radio’ (here ‘for radio’ implies the character isn’t good-looking, since radio is sound-only).

You can describe places through actions, too: Marquez shows us how his characters live in their home at different times of year and day

3. Combine adjectives creatively: Toni Morrison

Examples of adjectives, taken individually, don’t always tell us much. A single describing word may be apt, but it’s how an author strings together descriptions that creates a memorable effect. Take this example from Toni Morrison’s novel Jazz (1992), where she describes lovers Joe (a make-up salesman) and Dorcas:

‘The Iroquois sky passes the windows, and if they do see it, it crayon-colors their love. That would be when, after a decent silence, he would lift his sample case of Cleopatra from the chair and tease her before opening it, holding up the lid so she could not see right away what he has hidden under the jars and perfume-sweet boxes; the present he has brought for her. That is the little bow that ties up their day at the same time the citysky is changing its orange heart to black in order to hide its stars for the longest time before passing them out one by one by one, like gifts.’ (p. 38)

Morrison chooses an interesting adjective to describe the sky, referring to the Iroquois indigenous people of North America (perhaps referencing the purple of their flag, or the important role of the sky in their mythology).
Morrison’s description of Joe’s travelling case is evocative. She describes ‘perfume-sweet’ boxes, creating a hyphenated, portmanteau adjective. Instead of describing the sky as simply turning from orange to black, she personifies the sky – it actively changes its ‘orange heart to black in order to hide its stars’. The sky itself mimics the hiding and revealing of Joe and his box of gifts, similarly waiting for the perfect moment for a dazzling reveal. This description is rich and poetic.


Creating your own compound adjectives (e.g. ‘a whiskey-strong kick’; ‘ her shutter-fast retort’). Elsewhere in Jazz, Morrison describes the character Violet’s ‘snatch-gossip tongue’
Finding varied, metaphorical ways to use adjectives (instead of ‘the orange sky turned black’; for example, ‘the sky turned its orange heart black’)

Mary Oliver quote on adjectives | Now Novel

Mary Oliver: this is brilliant. I really must practice. 

4. Craft effective adjectival phrases: E. Annie Proulx

In addition to choosing the right standalone adjectives to describe your characters (like Dicken’s ‘impregnable’ for Mrs Joe’s armour-like apron), it’s also important to use adjectival phrases well. An adjectival phrase (also called adjective phrase) is a group of words that describe a noun or pronoun in a sentence. For example, in the sentence ‘not until dark, frost-slicked morning did she discover what had happened’, ‘dark, frost-slicked’ is a phrase describing ‘morning’.

An adjectival phrase can come before the noun in the sentence, as in this example from E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News (1993):

‘A great damp loaf of a body.’ (p. 2)

This is Proulx’s description of her protagonist Quoyle’s body. The describing words in an adjectival phrase can also come before and after the noun (e.g. ‘His damp body, a great, soggy loaf’) or before it, as in this example:
‘The were friends for a while, Quoyle, Partridge and Mercalia. Their differences: Partridge black, small, a restless traveler across the slope of life, an all-night talker; Mercalia, second wife of Partridge and the color of a brown feather on dark water, a hot intelligence; Quoyle large, white, stumbling along, going nowhere.’ (p.4)

In longer adjectival phrases such as these, note how the author maintains clarty and structure. At the start of each sentence after the colon, Proulx uses each character’s name, followed by adjectives and adjectival phrases.


When stringing together adjectives and adjectival phrases, order your descriptions for good flow. Proulx in the example above moves from the simple and clear (e.g. ‘black, small’) to the longer and more complex (‘all-night talker’) description. Each phrase is easy to follow

Combine the simple and visual with the more complex and abstract (e.g. Mercalia is described as having ‘a hot intelligence’)

Improve your descriptions: Get constructive feedback on your use of adjectives and other details and get help to finish writing a novel now.

I’m like a new born baby;soft, pink and innocent, aware I know little of this  gigantic, complex world of incredible words and pallets of rainbow hues I’m rushing back to Dickens, to have an exploratory read, to eat his writing like a starving child, and fill my empty head. ( how did I go?)

Until next time, 


Ways Your Kids Might Be Using Technology to Cheat

5 Ways Your Kids Might Be Using Technology to Cheat
Dear  friends and writers,

I have to re blog this as it shows us of the older generation, more of technology today. 

Grand parents be amazed discovering the world of today’s kids.

All Credit to the weekly  Techwaller  newsletter  for putting this blog together.


credit: shironosov/iStock/GettyImages
Kids are sneaky. If there’s a way to get their homework done faster by looking up the answers somewhere that isn’t in their textbooks or brains, chances are, they’ll consider doing it. It’s usually not because they aren’t smart or can’t handle the workload, it’s because they are clever, resourceful and have things to do other than school work outside of school.

You were a kid once — do you blame them?

Kids have found sneaky ways to cheat by using technology — more specifically, apps. There’s an app for everything. And even though they’re being resourceful, they should still be held accountable for cheating — and likely will be held accountable by their teachers and schools if they find out. But hey, the accountability is totally up to you.
So if you want to keep tabs on the ways your kids might be using technology to cheating, check out the ways:
Math apps

Math app

Photomath and yHomework are easy ways to solve math problems. For Photomath, all students need to do is hold their phones over the problem and the app scans it and gives the answer. It’s a camera calculator that we kind of wish existed when we were kids.


credit: Photomath

And for yHomework, they simply enter the equation and they’re given the full step-by-step solution — meaning, it shows the work for them!


credit: yHomework

Of course, as cheater-y as this is for kids to use, it might be an excellent tool to use when your kids come to you for help and you have absolutely no idea how to solve the problem. But they don’t have to know that.

Group chats

Oh, smartphones. They’re just so…smart. Students put together group chats with their classmates where they share answers to homework, tests, quizzes, etc. They do it sort of undercover, just in case an authority figure comes across the chat (i.e. 1B, 2C).

Smart watches

Smartwatches have the ability to do anything a phone can do, only sneakier. Teachers tell students to put their phones away during exams, but they don’t usually mention smartwatches.
credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/GettyImages

So, for example, let’s say a student has a vocabulary quiz. All he needs to do is take a picture of the answers, pull it up on his watch and get every single answer right.


If they have money (as little as $5), kids can pay someone to do their homework with just a few clicks. Fiverr is a service where you can pay somebody to do just about anything, including homework. Hopefully whoever they find to cheat for them actually knows a thing or two about the topic at hand.

Translator apps

Learning a new language isn’t easy. In fact, mastering a first language can be tough. So it’s no surprise that kids are taking advantage of programs like Google Translate and iTranslate that literally translate words and phrases by simply typing them in.
credit: Google Translate

Maybe by seeing the answer, they’ll commit the translation to memory. Meaning, the cheating will pay off! 

In a perfect world, perhaps.

Until next time, have a great day, 


How to edit your novel: 8 simple steps

Dear friends and authors,Each night I am mentally tired after putting in the hours required for editing. I find it enlightening, recognising repeated grammatical errors. Such a slow learner! Fortunately, as the later chapters receive their turn, less arbors are obvious. (I have yet to pass it to my editor/ writing coach. One thing I know is the need for breaks and fresh eyes. Enjoy your day, Eyes down and into it eh!         

Help today is from the brilliant NowNovel team. Free books are available to download to help you if you register on their newsletter/ blog. Find them on http://www.nownovel.com


How to edit your novel: 8 simple stepsHow to edit your novel | Now Novel

Learning how to edit your novel before a professional editor even sees it is smart. When there are fewer minor errors, a hired editor can focus on large-scale issues: Plot holes and inconsistencies and issues of style and tone. To edit your own writing, try these 8 simple steps:

1. Know how to edit your novel with fresh eyes: Take a break

You can read every tip there is on how to edit your novel, but if you’re so used to reading over errors that you miss them, you won’t weed these out.
Before you even attempt to edit your draft, take a break and step away. You might think this will make you lose momentum, but if you give yourself a set period of time for a break, you’ll return refreshed and ready.
Even when you take a week-long break from working on your draft, your unconscious mind will still be slotting things into place. You’ll be surprised at the types of connections that you’ll make on returning to work. If you are a writer who edits as you go, taking small breaks between finishing sections will also help and may give green story ideas a little time to grow and unfurl.

To revise effectively distance is important. Ernest Hemingway supposedly said ‘write drunk, edit sober’. Even if you think this is bad advice (and it certainly is if you take it literally), it makes sense metaphorically. I.e. when you create, this is the time to let your unconscious fill the page, without the ‘sober’ internal censor, the self-aware mind. Taking a short break will allow you to come back down to earth from the giddy drunkenness of creating and see your writing’s detail and large-scale structure with less immediate involvement and greater clarity.
2. Write up a list of questions to guide your editing

Make yourself a checklist of issues you want to examine over the course of your novel. Some of your points will be genre-specific. For example, if you are writing a romance novel, remind yourself to examine how your love story progresses as a continuous arc. If you are writing a crime novel, ensure that your clues are appropriately placed and reveal just enough to readers. If you are writing science fiction or fantasy, you will need to make sure your world-building is solid.

Here are some of the questions you may want to ask yourself as you revise:

Is your story structured well? If you followed some version of the three-act structure, did you maintain that structure and does it create a satisfying form?
Does your plot make sense? What about the subplots? Do the subplots work with the plot, or do they distract from it or make the book seem like too much is happening?

Are your characters well-developed? Do they seem like they could exist as flesh and blood? Do they behave in ways that are consistent with how they are characterized in prior scenes?

How is your setting? Is it fully realised? Does it need more or less detail? Is it integral to the story?

Are there places in the book where the narrative seems to drag? Can you identify why?

Do you tell readers the right information at the right time, avoiding info dumps?

How is your language? Are your sentences grammatically correct? Are any of them needlessly confusing?

This is just a start; you will have your own questions you’ll want to consider. Once you’ve made your plan, it’s time to start the actual revision:

3. Organize your editing process

It’s easier to edit when you have a structured process. Preparation is key. Before you start editing a chapter, do a read through. Fix minor errors at this stage (typos and spelling errors) but just note any larger-scale errors (such as plot inconsistencies) that could affect characters’ arcs elsewhere in your book. To organize how you edit your novel:
a) Organize your document management

It’s a good idea to save each chapter of your novel as a separate document, and to save new edits to duplicate versions named accordingly (e.g. ‘Chapter 2 – 1st edit’). This way you can easily backtrack to prior versions and compare to make sure you have your favourite versions in your final draft.

b) Organize all reference sources

As you edit your novel, keep a dictionary, thesaurus and any other sources you might need near. If you prefer online versions of these sources to books, save bookmarks in your browser you can quickly access whenever you want to find a more dazzling synonym or check a fact.

c) Organize your actual editing process

When you get down to combing through your draft it helps to have a bare-bones skeleton of your novel to refer to. If you didn’t create an outline or summary, you can still do this when your draft is complete. Create a brief, three or four-line summary of what happens in each chapter (or each scene) so that the core character and plot developments of each section are in focus while you edit. This will help you remember to make cuts or changes that highlight these key plot points and stop your plot from sometimes meandering off course.

Sign up to Now Novel and get help with editing your manuscript

4. Make a schedule for your editing

Just as you (ideally) did for your novel, make a schedule for your revision. Think about what other tools might help you with your revision. You’ll a system to take notes and keep track as you complete crucial editing tasks.

The system that works best for you depends on you. You might choose to use multicoloured index cards or sticky notes, spreadsheets, or a notebook divided into sections with different coloured pens for different revision notes (e.g. one colour for character development notes, another for setting description changes).

When you decide how to edit your novel, your system can be as formal or informal as you like. For example, you might decide to highlight every section where the story’s pace seems slow to you in a specific colour (such as blue) and return to each of these in sequence as one part of your editing process. The most important thing is that the editing system you use is intuitive for you and helps rather than hinders you.

5. Know your overused crutch words and phrases and other quirks

In Ben Blatt’s book Nabokov’s Favourite Word is Mauve, he shares the opening three-word phrases that popular authors use most. For example, in Fifty Shades of Grey E L James’ top three opening phrases are ‘Christian Grey CEO’, ‘I want to’ and ‘My inner goddess’. If you are worried that you have crutch words or phrases that you abuse (rather than consciously choose) throughout your book, use your word processor’s ‘find’ feature to locate them and vary your prose more.

If E L James, for example, wanted something a little less purple prose -like than ‘my inner goddess’, it would have been easy for her to search this phrase and make some substitutions.

The ‘find and replace’ feature of popular word processors is also useful if a character or place description needs to change throughout your book. As an example, say you described a fantasy villain’s fortress as iron but realize during editing you’ve set your novel in pre-industrial times, you could easily choose an alternative adjective (such as ‘stone’) and do a quick find and replace for any two-word phrases such as ‘iron citadel’, to make it ‘stone citadel’ instead.

6. Edit for clarity and concision

Getting rid of the guff that doesn’t contributing anything will make your final manuscript better. Concise (to the point) writing is usually a pleasure to read.
So how do you edit for clarity and concision?         

Get rid of unnecessary filter and filler words

Filter words are words or phrases that tell readers about everything characters do, see, hear or think instead of just showing the thing itself. For example, the filter words in this paragraph are in bold:

‘John saw a strange light emanating from the cottage that he’d stumbled across in the woods. He thought that it would be foolish to approach and try the handle. Yet he felt curious about what was inside.’

Compare to this:

‘A strange light was emanating from the cottage John had found in the woods. It would be foolish to try the handle. Yet he had to know what was inside.’

This shorter paragraph is clearer and we see what the character sees rather than being told about it. Filter words aren’t always bad, but if they aren’t crucial to understand the meaning, cut them out. Read these tips on revising a too-long manuscript.
Delete doubled words and redundant modifiers
Doubled words are words that mean the same thing, used together (e.g. ‘basic fundamentals’). If two words mean the same thing in any sentence of your draft, choose the word that’s easier to follow, unless there is good reason to choose the complex option.
Redunant modifiers are descriptive words that are already implied in the word they describe, for example: ‘He knew the basic fundamentals’. ‘Fundamentals’ are the basic rules on which an idea or subject is based, thus ‘basic’ is unnecessary.

Read a brief , bullet point guide to editing for concision here.
7. Make multiple passes when you edit

Learning how to edit your own writing is challenging if you’re impatient. Editing is seldom a one-step process. Once you’ve done a first read through and noted minor elements that need changing, go through the book more carefully and address the major elements. Use your checklists to look at plot, structure, character, setting and the other major parts of your novel.

If you find that you are going to be doing major rewrites, you should work on those rewrites before you do more detail-oriented corrections (line editing). Reading over multiple times for depth and detail as well as large-scale structural issues will ensure you catch more. Just remember to take breaks between edits!

8. Get peer and professional writing feedback

The final step to revising a draft is having others read your work. You may already have writing friends or belong to a writing group, or you might want to find a group. You can also use the Now Novel Groups section to submit extracts of your work in progress for feedback from our community. Working with a writing coach is also a viable way to take your manuscript to a higher level. Learn more about our mentoring services here.

What is your top tip for self-editing fiction?

My tip: use an editing programme if you are unaware of current editing trends, grammatical errors. Then pass it on to a trained editor to pick up what you miss.


Sweeten Your Prose Using These Tasty Power Verbs

Hi friends and writers. No apologies for this blog, as it is sent highly recommended, ( by myself.) In my efforts to clean up my writing by showing instead of telling, this blog by Autocrit, teaches it clearly. 

Sweeten Your Prose Using These Tasty Power Verbs
A spoonful of sugar with some strawberries

Ever read a book where you loved the plot, the characters were engaging, but for some reason the writing put you to sleep?

It’s likely the fault of some pesky verbs. Think about when you tell someone a story in person and you really want to impress them — you might not exaggerate (well, not too much anyway), but you use the punchiest words possible to get your messaging across in as engaging a way as you can.

The same goes for writing — and boring, moldy old verbs can rob your prose of the excitement and impact it deserves to have.

With that in mind, here’s a handy list of 30 alternative verbs that’ll add a more palatable flavor to your writing and keep your readers hungry for more.

1. Instead of Put Down, use Drop

2. Instead of Throw, use Fling

3. Instead of Shout, use Bellow

4. Instead of Run, use Tear

5. Instead of Laugh, use Guffaw

6. Instead of Cry, use Weep

7. Instead of Pull, use Heave

8. Instead of Push, use Shove

9. Instead of Make, use Create

10. Instead of Lead, use Command

11. Instead of Love, use Adore

12. Instead of Ask, use Beg

13. Instead of Let, use Permit

14. Instead of Rot, use Putrefy

15. Instead of Cause, use Incite

16. Instead of Damage, use Ruin

17. Instead of Climb, use Scale

18. Instead of Win, use Triumph

19. Instead of Lose, use Fail

20. Instead of Sing, use Croon

21. Instead of Drink, use Chug

22. Instead of Wash, use Cleanse

23. Instead of Tie, use Bind

24. Instead of Roll, use Tumble

25. Instead of Gossip, use Tattle

26. Instead of Meet, use Convene

27. Instead of Satisfy, use Delight

28. Instead of Read, use Scan

29. Instead of Smash, use Obliterate

30. Instead of Hit, use Clobber
There are so many powerful verb choices available to you — ones that reach above the norm and bring life and variety to your writing — we could go on listing them for a lifetime.

If you find yourself playing it safe and under-describing your characters’ actions — the result of which is often telling, not showing — try injecting a few alternative verbs to your description and watch it come to life.

What are your favorite alternatives to standard verbs? Are there any you catch yourself using a little too often? Sound off in the comments below!
Why do I highly recommend this blog? By up loading each chapter to autocrit I am whizzing through the changes. Bringing an evaluation of 92% readability and clean writing. Adverbs, verbs along with repetitive sentence starters are being rapidly picked up. Another fortnight and it will have its evaluation with my writing coach, then off to the editors before re publishing! Yahoo!


Don’t get declined – get published!

Is Adverb Overload Dragging Your Manuscript Down?

Hi friends,

Recently I spoke about how I appreciate the editing programme Autocrit. Today I have been using it to polish the first three re-written chapters of my grammatically flawed first novel. Today this blog arrived in my mail box.  It is important enough to share with you. Check out Autocrit as to use it as a trial, is free. I’m lost without it. 

Are you aware of adverbs over use?   Read on…..

Is Adverb Overload Dragging Your Manuscript Down?
If there’s one telltale sign of an amateur writer, it’s a manuscript crammed with adverbs.

Adverbs are those –ly words, like quickly or angrily, that we tend to rely on in early drafts.

But now you’re in the editing process, most of them need to go.

In simple terms, adverbs rely on weak verbs and adjectives to justify their existence – which makes your writing boring. Rather than overcoming the weakness of your verb, you’re actually highlighting it when you resort to beefing it up with adverbs.

And “beefing up” those weak words is also doing something else . . .

It’s adding more words to your manuscript.

Remember: At the professional level, every word counts – and if making your point means shoving in adverbs, chances are you’re bogging down your story instead of letting it bloom.

That’s not good. Every experienced editor and publisher out there can see padding from a mile away. 

How to Escape the Adverb Ambush
Slipping the adverb snare is an easy task: The adverb and the weak verb or adjective can almost always be replaced by a single power verb.
Take, for example, “He walked quickly.”

It’s much more descriptive (and dramatic) to say the character ran, galloped, jogged, bolted, or raced.

Think about it. “He raced through the parking lot” is much livelier than “He walked quickly through the parking lot”, isn’t it?

By the same token, consider, “She looked very pretty.”

That’s not nearly as strong as “She looked stunning.”

So when you see yourself placing adverbs into your sentences, cast a quick eye over them and consider whether you could remove your current adverb/verb/adjective pairing and replace it with a single, more powerful verb.

Adverbs in Dialogue

Dialogue tags are statements that identify who is speaking, such as he said or she whispered. That’s all that they’re for.

But when adverbs raise their ugly head in dialogue tags, they become a sure-fire sign of an inexperienced writer.

For instance:
Don’t you walk away from me!” he shouted angrily.

Watch out for adverbs like this, and get rid of them – you don’t need them! In this example, the reader already knows the character is angry; his words are angry and commanding, and the dialogue tag states he’s shouting. There’s no need to tell us of his anger – it’s already been shown.

If you feel the need to include an adverb to convey how somebody is speaking, that’s a sign you probably need to revise the dialogue itself.

A Few Examples

Strong, sexy verbs shouldn’t be used just to replace weak verbs or adjectives and adverbs, but also to replace any boring or run-of-the-mill verb or adjective.

For example, you could find a dozen better verbs than sat.

Instead of “Jane sat on the couch,” any of these would paint a fuller picture:

Jane sank into the couch.

Jane slumped onto the couch.

Jane flopped on the couch.

Jane perched on the couch.

Every one of those verbs is more specific and descriptive than sat – so look for ways to spice up your verbs.

Your readers will thank you.

The Harsh Truth of Adverbs

Most agents and editors loathe adverbs. A manuscript littered with adverbs indicates the writer either didn’t know to come up with a more powerful verb (and is therefore inexperienced), or knew but didn’t bother. And that’s definitely not the impression you want to make.

It’s more than worth your time to comb through your manuscript and eliminate as many adverbs as possible.

Why use two weak words when a single strong one will do the trick? Get rid of those adverbs and your prose will magically become tighter, leaner, and more dynamic.

But don’t feel too frightened of adverbs – not every single one has to be destroyed. Even wildly successful authors (see, I just used one right there!) have been known to use them occasionally. So don’t feel like you have to go Adverb Apocalypse all across your manuscript.

How will you know when you’ve got too many? Take a look at the AutoCrit Overused Words report for a comparison of the number of adverbs found in your writing with those found in published fiction. It’s as easy as that.

Not an AutoCrit user? Fix that right now by joining up for less than $1 a day.

We’ll be bringing a selection of alternative verbs you can use to make your writing more powerful.

By AutoCrit| May 22nd, 2017|Editing, The Craft of Writing.

Reblogged in its entirety by Glennis Browne, author. 

7 lessons from books made into movie adaptations

Hi friends and authors,  a reviewer of my novel said it would make a great film. I was flattered, but being a first book, I didn’t take it seriously. Like everything, these things get filed until we are given a reminder. Today it came from Bridget at NowNovel. Makes interesting reading. I hope you enjoy the tips, just in case you believe you have written a movie… 

good luck, Glennis

7 lessons from books made into movie adaptations. books made into movie adaptations – lessons

Many authors who have had books made into movie adaptations have become multi-millionaires almost overnight. Why are some books primed for screen adaptation from the start? They share in common strong high concepts, great structure, visual flair and more. Read 7 lessons from books adapted for screen that will help you make your novel blockbuster material:

1. Brainstorm a strong central idea or high concept

2. Work at your story’s structure for good plot

3. Make your fictional world visual and vivid

4. Tap into universal story themes

5. Make your prose lean and effective

6. Write dialogue that gets books made into movies

7. Think for the silver screen: Show more than tell

Let’s explore each of these tips with examples from books adapted for film:

1. Brainstorm a strong central idea or high concept

Movie-ready books have good central ideas and high concepts. A ‘high concept’ in film and television means a striking, easily communicated idea or premise. Even though adapting Harry Potter for film made financial sense (given its massive audience), Rowling’s central idea for the first novel is already cinematic:

Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry’s eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!’ (via Bloomsbury)

Let’s examine the components of what makes this a movie-ready high concept:

There’s a hook or inciting event.The first sentence tells a crucial, curiosity-inducing event – mysterious letters arriving – that sets the story in motion.

We see a central character’s starting point and are promised exciting change. From the starting point of Harry’s life at 4 Privet Drive, we know an ‘incredible adventure’ will happen and have hints for why it will be exciting (Harry discovers he’s a wizard).

We learn the initial settings (and are promised a progression from ordinary to extraordinary setting).We know the story will take us from the ordinary suburban setting of ‘Privet Drive’ to ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’.

There are small secondary character introductions. Not only do we know something about Harry (he finds out he’s a wizard on his 11th birthday) but we also learn of his ‘grisly’ aunt and uncle and the ‘beetle-eyed giant of a man’, Hagrid.

The central idea easily communicates just enough details of setting, character, and change to get us intrigued. Make sure your own central idea also gives a general, beguiling glimpse into your story.

2. Work at your story’s structure for good plot

Books made into movie adaptations are typically well paced and structured. They grip readers’ attention and pull them into their worlds, leaving screenwriters less work to do when adapting.

Let’s start with a list of books made into movies more than once:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (15 adaptations)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (11 adaptations including miniseries)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (23 film, 13 TV)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (22 for film and TV, including Italian, Japanese and Bollywood adaptations)

Each of the books in the list above is well-structured. Anna Karenina is divided into eight parts, already a satisfying division for a miniseries adaptation

Part 1 sets up the main intrigues of the epic saga. The title character’s brother, Stiva, has cheated on his wife and the family is in turmoil, just when Anna visits Moscow. At the same time, Stiva’s old friend Kostantin Levin (‘Kostya’) is arriving to propose to Stiva’s wife’s youngest sister, Kitty. Kitty in turn is being pursued by a handsome young count, Vronksy.

If you summarized part 1 in a word, it would be ‘arrivals’. Tolstoy uses part 1 to establish the criss-crossing desires of the characters living or arriving in Moscow and sets his characters (with their different objectives) on a collision course.

This creates multiples situations of suspense and curiosity from the outset. By the end of part 1, we have an idea of multiple characters’ goals as well as competition between them (such as Kostya and Vronksy’s competition for Kitty’s affections).

Set up your story’s opening so it draws readers into your characters’ arcs from the outset. A strong hook and structured plot prime a story for screen adaptation.

3. Make your fictional world visual and vivid

What do novels adapted for film and TV such as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings cycle and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series have in common? Besides genre (in this instance) and gripping plot, both offer readers rich, finely mapped and imagined worlds. Worlds of vivid imagery and striking contrasts. Consider the contrast betwen Tolkien’s description of The Shire (the Hobbits’ peaceful homeland), and the dangerous Mordor:

Frodo’s uncle Bilbo describing the Shire:

‘I want to see the wild country again before I die, and the Mountains; but [Frodo] is still in love with the Shire, with woods and fields and little rivers.’

Elsewhere, Tolkien also describes the Shire’s landscape and mood:

‘The Shire had seldom seen so fair a summer, or so rich an autumn: the trees were laden with apples, honey was dripping in the combs, and the corn was tall and full.’

Compare to Tolkien’s description of Frodo first laying eyes upon Sauron’s fortress in Mordor:

‘Darkness lay there under the Sun. Fire glowed amid the smoke. Mount Doom was burning, and a great reek rising. Then at last his gaze was held: wall upon wall, battlement upon battlement, black, immeasurably strong, mountain of iron, gate of steel, tower of adamant, he saw it: Barad-dûr, Fortress of Sauron. All hope left him.’

Compare the apple-laden trees of the shire to the ‘great reek’ and the ‘wall upon wall’ of Mordor’s hope-destroying ‘mountain of iron’. Vivid descriptions such as these make writing visual and immersive. They thus give visual screenplay authors plenty to work with.

4. Tap into universal story themes

Like the best novels, great screenplays connect with diverse audiences because they evoke universal story themes we can relate to. Common universal themes include:

Strength in adversity

The power (or danger) of love

The perils of (insert negative character attribute here, e.g. pride, jealousy, infidelity)

Ordinary heroism

The importance of friendship

Strength in adversity stories like Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (adapted by Ang Li) give us a David vs Goliath story. We cheer on the small protagonist who faces vast odds. The David of the story is a skinny castaway who must survive against the book’s Goliaths – the Pacific Ocean and the Tiger he’s marooned with on a boat.

This universal theme is a favourite in film adaptations because viewers and readers alike enjoy the suspense, the tension and release, when underdogs face incredible odds.

When you’re brainstorming the central idea for a book, think about the themes you could explore. If we look at the central idea given in the Harry Potter synopsis above, we see universal themes. ‘Ordinary heroism’ is the most obvious, since an eleven-year-old finds out he is actually a wizard who (it emerges) must fulfill a crucial yet dangerous role.

Although the themes of your story might only occur to you when your first draft is finished, keeping ‘theme’ in mind as a concept when you start will remind you to develop your themes and broader ideas.

5. Make your prose lean and effective

If we examine the prose of books made into movies, we see it’s often lean and gets to the point fast. Stephen King’s The Shining, for example (famously adapted by director Stanley Kubrick) cuts straight to dialogue, as Jack is offered the position of winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel:

‘Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick.

Ullman stood five-five, and when he moved, it was with the prissy speed that seems to be the exclusive domain of all small plump men. The part in his hair was exact, and his dark suit was sober but comforting.’

This opening is gold for filmmakers. The opening lines are rich with description. They’d give all parties from actors (the speed of Ullman’s movements) to hair and make-up (‘the part in his hair was exact’) and wardrobe (‘his dark suit was sober but comforting’) details to work with. We get everything we need to picture the scene. Aim for this level of efficiency and cut away inessential guff.

In a screenplay, the screenwriter has to make many decisions for what to cut and what to keep (many weren’t happy with Kubrick’s choices for The Shining). Aim for precise prose that would make a screenwriter’s task easy.

6. Write dialogue that gets books made into movies

In film, a voice-over (except in more experimental movies) doesn’t tell viewers what characters think, feel or want constantly. We see these elements through action, expression, and dialogue in particular.

As we’ve said before, great dialogue (in books and film):

Sounds like real speech when read aloud – slang, interruptions, and all

Communicates important details about characters: Their personalities, goals and desires

Gives each character their own voice

Consider this extract of dialogue from Tennessee Williams’ famous play, A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanche DuBois has come to visit her married sister, Stella Kowalski, in New Orleans:

Blanche: No coke, honey, not with my nerves tonight! Where- where- where is – ?

Stella: Stanley [Stella’s husband]? Bowling! He loves it. They’re having a – found some soda! – tournament …

Blanche: Just water, baby, to chase it! Now don’t get worried, your sister hasn’t turned into a drunkard, she’s just all shaken up and hot and tired and dirty! You sit down, now, and explain this place to me! What are you doing in a place like this?

Stella: Now, Blanche –

Blanche: Oh, I’m not going to be hypocritical, I’m going to be honestly critical about it! Never, never, never in my worst dreams could I picture- Only Poe! Only Mr. Edgar Allan Poe! – could do it justice! Out there I suppose is the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir! [She laughs.]

The dialogue is effective. We see Blanche’s ‘Southern belle’ persona, as she calls Stella ‘honey’ and ‘baby’. Stella’s speech, by contrast, is more plain. We also see Blanche’s personality as she criticizes Stella’s home. Blanche lacks tact and self-awareness. The dialogue characterizes each sister precisely.

A play condenses characters’ movements, actions and speech into a few acts. This is why reading play scripts can also help you to create fully-realized characters.

What helps books get made into movies

7. Think for the silver screen: Show more than tell

Many aspiring authors are sick of hearing the words ‘show, don’t tell.’ It’s true, as we’ve discussed elsewhere, that sometimes telling is necessary.

Good balance between showing and telling makes books readier for the screen. Compare these two examples:

‘Entering the house, she smelt something awful. She felt fear but kept walking to the end of the corridor. The door at the end, on the left, was stiff and she was hesitant to push it open. When she did, she couldn’t believe what she saw.’

This is telling. If we show a little more:

‘The stench in the house was repugnant, of rot and decay. Pinching her nose closed she crept down the corridor, stopping to listen every few feet. Dimly, a door on the left was just visible. Pushing it, she found it stiff. She paused, pushed harder, but leaped backwards when she saw what lay beyond.’

The second example is stronger. We see rather than hear about the character. Actions (creeping, leaping) are also stronger, contributing to mood.

See how Emily Brontë shows her characters’ gestures clearly in Wuthering Heights: It already has a cinematic quality:

‘‘You see, sir, I am come, according to promise!’ I exclaimed, assuming the cheerful; ‘and I fear I shall be weather-bound for half an hour, if you can afford me shelter during that space.’

‘Half an hour?’ he said, shaking the white flakes from his clothes; ‘I wonder you should select the thick of a snow-storm to ramble about in.’

The narrator Lockwood has been walking in the snow but the snowstorm worsens and he attempts to take shelter at the character Heathcliff’s cottage on the moors. The description ‘shaking the white flakes from his clothes’, woven naturally into the dialogue, shows an element of setting, blending dialogue and scene setting together.

This type of showing creates a vivid world, giving the sort of detail that a screenwriter could include for unity of setting, dialogue and action.

Join Now Novel to brainstorm a strong, film-worthy central idea, and get helpful feedback from your online community.

6 surefire ways to promote your novel

Hi fellow authors,

Today I’m sharing a blog on Promotion, by Sandra Beckwith from Bookbuzz. It is another informative article from a respected and helpful lady.

The biggest mistake most novelists make when promoting their books is believing that it’s all about book reviews. Wrong. Book reviews are valuable and securing them should be on any author or publisher’s book promotion to-do list, but your novel deserves more widespread, long-term, and ongoing exposure than it can get through reviews alone. It deserves to be talked about month after month – as long as the book is available for purchase. 
Here are six tips for helping you see the publicity and promotion value in your fiction so that you generate the ongoing buzz your book deserves: 

1. Find the nonfiction nuggets in your manuscript and use them to create newsworthy material for relevant media outlets. 

Is your heroine a jilted wife starting over in the workforce as – let’s say – an account executive at a high-flying packaging design firm who finds love with her client at a consumer products company? You’ve got publicity opportunities with the packaging and marketing trade magazines. Is she a radio jock? The female morning drive time personalities would love to interview you by phone. 

What about locations, products, or services in your novel? A story set in a national park or a convenience store gives you news pegs for exposure in the relevant trade magazines. A character’s obsession with a little known beverage brand could get your book into that company’s employee newsletter. If you’re writing your novel now, work in some nonfiction nuggets you can capitalize on later. 

2. Use your content to identify promotion allies. 

Is your protagonist an athlete in a wheelchair? Connect with groups such as the National Wheelchair Basketball Association or the National Wheelchair Softball Association. What about the professions of the people in your book? Does it feature a secretary? Contact the Association of Executive and Administrative Professionals. There’s an association for just about every profession. 

But don’t just send them a note that says, “I’ve written a book your members will love.” Send a copy of the book with a letter outlining promotional possibilities and what’s in it for them. You might offer to speak at their national meeting, do a Q&A for their member publication, or offer a discount to members. 

3. Leverage what you uncovered while writing your book. 

Did you learn about a period in history or a specific region? Use this knowledge as a springboard for publicity. The author of a historical romance novel set in New York’s Hudson River Valley, for example, can write and distribute a news release announcing the top romantic and historical attractions in that region or pitch a local newspaper or regional magazine on an article about the area’s most romantic date destinations. Your goal is to be quoted as an expert source because this would require using your book title as one of your credentials. 

4. Support your book with a good Web site designed by a professional. 

Your Web site has to be as good as your writing. It also has to contain information that convinces us that your books are worth buying and reading. It doesn’t have to be slick, but it does need to be very well-written, attractive, useful, and enticing. We will assess your ability to tell a good story by your ability to communicate on your Web site, so the writing is crucial. 

5. Get social.

 Focus on one or two social networking sites – Facebook now has more users than MySpace – and master the most effective and appropriate ways to use them to promote your book before spreading yourself too thin on several sites. Once you understand how the process works, expand to others and use new technology tools and resources such as those at TweetDeck and Ping.fm to streamline your information sharing across your networks. 

6. Share the love. 

Help us connect with you by blogging about your writing process and experiences. Get excerpts up on your Web site and read portions to us via podcasts so we can get a feel for your writing and decide if the story is appealing. Give us enough online – on your Web site, blog, and through podcast download sites such as iTunes – to convince us we’d like your book. 

There’s no question that promoting fiction is harder than promoting nonfiction – but because of that, it’s also more rewarding. 

You have permission to reprint the article with this required author credit: 

Sandra Beckwith offers a free book publicity and promotion e-zine at http://www.buildbookbuzz.com and teaches the “Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz” e-course.