Writing Prompt: Book Exercise #3

This week, we’re doing another exercise from the book, What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. This is from Chapter 68 about Adverbs and Adjectives.

It’s a long standing debate between using adverbs in dialogue or not :

“To be or not to be,” quoteth Hamlet sadly. vs “To be or not to be,” quoteth Hamlet.

*Yes I know that’s not a perfect quote. It’s just an example.*

Personally, I try very hard not to use adverbs in my dialogue. I try to let my words convey meaning and feeling though it’s all open to interpretation by the reader.

In this exercise, the focus isn’t on using adverbs in dialogue. It’s about using adverbs and adjectives in everything else, and mostly about the detrimental effects of using weak ones. These descriptors should be used to enhance the mood, the scene, whatever they’re a part of – not detract. Here’s an example used in the book where they were used well:

She had been to Germany, Italy, everywhere that one visits acquisitively. – Elizabeth Bowen, The Last September.

Within the parson’s house death was zealously kept in view and lectured on. – Isak Dinesen, “Peter and Rosa”

Page 190 Exercise 68 Taboos: Weak Adverbs and Adjectives


Find a story you really like and go to page at random. On this page, find all the adjectives and adverbs,circle them and determine if they’re weak or strong. If you think they’re weak, change them to those you think are strong.

The objective is to learn how to avoid using them unless they add to what you’re trying to say and then, using only strong ones.

While I reluctantly leave you now, I eagerly await our next meeting.

See you on the flipside and don’t forget your towel and sonic screwdriver!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.