Adjectives

I’m visual. My memories are in pictures, usually very detailed. I can tell you what someone was wearing at the family get-together last year.

So in my writing I have to “see” the scene before I can write about it. I don’t have to draw out the house plan, but it has to be in my head so I can visualize how characters move through their surroundings.

I enjoy the same thing when I’m reading. I don’t want the author to gloss over the details. (And I’m not talking about character description… which isn’t really that important to me… but that’s a subject for another blog.) Unfortunately purple prose are out these days. Most readers don’t enjoy reading one or two paragraphs of scene description. So writers are left adding strong adjectives to give clues to the surroundings without resorting to long descriptions.

I love adjectives. They’re a great part of the English language. But just as they can make writing stronger, they can also tear it apart. Look at this piece of writing.

His capable hand found her silken thigh and slid up to the soft curve of her hip. His powerful knee pushed between her smooth inner thighs, opening them wide. Willingly, she gave way to his powerful leg and heard him moan quietly as his thick fingers found the velvet softness between her trembling legs.

Oh, I had all I could do not to scream as I read the above paragraph. Where I got it doesn’t matter, but the point I’m trying to make does.

Obviously, this is a love scene. This is the point in the book where I should have been swept away into the moment and been right there with this couple. After all, I’d been waiting and hoping these two would stop being so blind to their own sexual attraction and actually do something about it.

And there’s my reward.

Only, the author threw me out of the scene. The overuse of adjectives stuck out more than the action. Instead of being swept away I became more annoyed with each word. *sigh*

What I learned (and continue to learn)… is go sparingly with the adjectives. Give enough to the reader to make them “feel” and “see” the action, but don’t kill them with unnecessary words.

Books flying against the wall just aren’t pretty.

The first mistake the author made is that the scene is in her point of view. She’s not going to think of her skin as smooth or silken. And when you use the word “heard” or “felt”, you’re separating the character from themselves and in turn, distancing the reader.  I also think if we could get a sense of the heroine’s emotion it would pull the reader deeper into the seduction. And what about other senses? How does he taste or smell? Most of these adjectives have to do with the sense of touch. What if the scene added a few other layers?

His capable hand found her silken thigh, and sliding up to the soft curve of her hip, trailing goose flesh in the heat of his touch. His powerful knee pushed between her smooth inner trembling thighs, opening them wide. She wanted this–wanted him. Her breath caught when he found the velvet softness brushed her most sensitive flesh. The scent of her arousal wrapped them in a sensual cocoon that seemed to drive his passion. He deepened the kiss, his tongue seeking and possessing, pushing away any coherent thought. When he pressed his thick fingers into her core, the moan of pleasure filling the air could have come from either of them.

The italicized words are mine. So what do you think? Did it read better with a few less adjectivesor am I all wet?

When you read do you find things like that jarring or have I become hypersensitive? Am I finding problems where none truly exist? I’d love to hear your opinion. Because you know me, I’m curious about stuff like this.

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