Adjectives are Free: That doesn’t mean you have to use ALL of them

Nearly every novel I’ve read as of late, particularly new ones, seem to think that because adjectives are free and don’t end in “-ly”, they should use them ALL. It’s as if by using every adjective in the dictionary they will gain some sort legitimacy with the writing community.

Let me make this perfectly clear, from the perspective of an amateur writer and long-time reader, adjectives are not what you think they are. Just because you know the word aureate (or can look it up in a thesaurus) doesn’t mean you should use it every change you get.

For example: If your main character walks up to a door to open it to find a major plot point, the reader need not know about the color of the door, its smell, how the main character grabbed the knob, or even who designed the damn thing. Why? Because it’s not important!!!

The adjective in a story should not just describe the noun it is set to describe. That’s grammatically accurate, but it’s not what you do in a story. In storytelling, an adjective should do so much more than describe the noun it directly affects.

An adjective should tell you something about the story itself. It should provide information about the character that owns the noun being adjective-ized (assuming this is a word). It should not only paint the picture for the reader to build in their head, it should help the reader feel the emotion that comes with that noun.

Readers bring their own experiences into the written story. They enjoy reading because reading allows the reader to build their own worlds in their mind within the plot and basic scenery traits the writer provides. If readers wanted absolutely everything handed to them in terms of what things look like, they would watch a Michael Bay movie.

So, please, for the love of everything good and holy, stop using unnecessary adjectives.

4 thoughts on “Adjectives are Free: That doesn’t mean you have to use ALL of them

  1. "An adjective should tell you something about the story itself."

    I push this point with my younger writer friends. If it doesn't advance the story in some meaningful or significant way, leave it out! (I'm guilty of this too, I'm sure.)

  2. I would also add they are necessary for world building. This is especially true of speculative fiction. Adjectives can help explain the world you are building for the reader. But I do agree too many can detract from the story – especially esoteric ones that you may have to look up the meaning of!

    1. So very true, Tarcy. I've just read one too many stories that don't require the cornucopia of adjectives they use. It's as if because they understand "use -ly adverbs sparingly" they think a slathering of adjectives will make their story come to life.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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