Tag Archives: writing 101

The road to hell is paved with adverbs

Stephen King said that the sin of telling often begins with adverbs, and that for writers, the road to hell is paved with adverbs.

I’m experimenting with adverb free writing. Apparently adverbs are not my friends.

The purpose of adverb-free writing is to create vivid pictures and meaning with strong precise verbs rather than using adverbs as a crutch.

The use of adverbs is commonplace. Our conversations are peppered with adverbs qualifying our verbs. Krista from WordPress wrote:

Adverbs…are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They’re the ones that usually end in -ly. Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind….With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

Instead of using adverbs as a crutch, rely on strong verbs to convey emotional qualities that imbue your writing with nuance, allowing the reader to fire up their imagination. Consider, for example:

“She walked proudly out the door.”

Remove the adverb “proudly” and replace it with a strong verb to denote how she walked:

She strutted out the door.

She sashayed out the door.

She flounced out the door.

Each example connotes the emotion with which “she” moved, creating a more vivid picture than “proudly” ever could.

Read on…adverb free writing…the story is true.

I turned the key, the engine sputtered to life, and died. I waited 10 seconds and turned the key once more. This time the engine did not even turn, the click click click of the ignition confirming my worst suspicions.

Through a process of elimination Che concluded that the battery was fine. The problem was much more serious – electrical fault!

A call to the Hyundai service centre yielded an unhelpful “sorry we can’t fetch your car” response to my plea for help. Needless to say I was not charmed. I made a promise that I would find any service centre to fix my car as long as it was not a Hyundai one. 

Che then offered to fix my car. He works from home and had some spare time this week. So that is how, for 3 days this week, he chauffeured me to work and back. 

This commute was characterised by debate, storytelling and laughter. We made an event out of this break from normality – each evening, on our way home we enjoyed dinner at a different restaurant.  

The alternator turned out to be fine. The malfunction was caused by one of the 120 amp fuses blowing when Che connected the battery to the charger. Lesson learnt.

A wonderful Che washed and valet my car too. Shame, I don’t often get it washed. And it smells nice inside courtesy of lavender scented dash polish. So my car is happy.  And I am happy that I did not have to lash out much cash to resolve the issue.

In order to write the above without adverbs I wrote the piece as I would blog it, then proceeded to identify and replace adverbs with strong verbs.

A respectable effort, don’t you think?

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Writing 101 Day 5: Someone’s Lost Their Ride – 100 Word Story

Writing 101, Day 5 assignment - Be Brief 
You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter. Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

“I wrote a letter to my love and on the way I lost it…” I distractedly sing the children’s rhyme, my eyes on the treacherous path. I see something…

White paper napkin, black scrawling writing, red lipstick smudges. Crumpled up. Carelessly lost. Or deliberately thrown? Placed in my path by pesky wind.

Picking it up, I read:

“8 o’clock. Be there. The ship sails. Never to return.”

Well someone’s lost their ride. I sigh, smell the rich perfume still on the paper. My fingers feel dampness. Of tears?

The church bell tolls nine times.

Tears come unbidden to my eyes.

Writing 101 Day 4: Story of Loss – Menino Candulo Senhor Comandante

Day 4’s assignment is to write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more. What’s important is reflecting on this experience and what it meant for you — how it felt, why it happened, and what changed because of it.

This post is not coming easily to me. Almost a year ago my Uncle Guilherme passed away. Last night my Aunt Salome died. When my Uncle passed on my Aunt honoured his memory on her Facebook page. Today many of her friends are honouring her memory on her Facebook page. They were not related as they came from different sides of the family.

Both loved books. My Uncle wrote books in Portuguese which were translated into other languages. My Aunt adored books and read in many different languages. Both were children of Mozambique.

In April of 1974 my Uncle, Guilherme de Melo wrote a book called “Menino Candulo Senhor Comandante”. This is the translation of his dedication page:

“Everything in life has an explanation. A why.

The why of this book then – it is for the little people, but one which adults can also read – simple.

It happened that, one day, I arrived at the family home for dinner, like all human beings, citizens or not – naturally do. My young great-nieces were playing with each other. The youngest, almost five years old, busied herself with colouring-in books. The eldest read fables with fairies and dragons – she was a playful eight year and in the third grade. My Mom, great-grandmother to both little girls, was very proud of her gifts which she loved telling visitors to the house about.

“Tio, why don’t you write a story for us?” the eldest asked me with a serious look on her face as soon as she saw me enter the house.

“But you’ve got so many books already with which you can entertain yourself and read aloud to your sister. ” I objected.

With a petulant expression on her face she said, “Oh! I’ve read them all. And the books Granny brings me all tell the same stories – princesses, witches, giants and the big bad wolf…But why is it that there are no stories for children that take place in THIS country Tio…?

They actually do. That same morning, the newspaper where I work had run such a story, a small insert sent from the correspondent in Vila Cabral:

“Five children from the area of the Luissa village, some 20 kilometres from Vila Cabral presented themselves to the Portuguese authorities. They had been kidnapped by Frelimo last May, together with a group of men and women. Candulo Bonomar, 11 years old, Anete Anjida e Lua Uinasi, both 9 years old, Adaima Aide, 6 years old and Abide Bara, were taken to Tanzania, where, on the northern banks of the Rovuma River, the kidnappers separated the adults from the children. The children and adults – it is not clear how many there were – were taken to the so-called “Escola do Macheje”. Candulo Bonomar planned an escape, telling his four friends about it. Under the pretense of going down to the river to wash their clothes, they made their escape. After walking through the bush for many days they came upon a Portuguese military patrol who took them to Pauila, and then to Macaloje. They were finally transported to Vila Cabral and Luissa where they are now.”

Newspapers sizzled with this news.

From which this book happened.

For all the children of my country to read. And the adults to meditate on it.”

My Aunt’s free-spiritness is something I will always remember and be inspired by.

My Uncle, Guilherme de Melo is the reason I write!

Notes:
"Tio" is Portuguese for "Uncle".
The country is Mozambique, until 1974 a colony of Portugal.
A violent war was waged for many years, mainly contained in the north of the country.
Frelimo was the liberation movement.
Mozambique is now a democracy.
Frelimo is the current party in government.
Vila Cabral, Pauila, Macaloje, Luissa are all towns in Mozambique.
I haven’t been able to get information on the Escola do Macheje which I assume was infamous.
I don’t know what became of Candulo Bonomar and his 4 friends.

A paucity of information on my Uncle exists on the web - I guess it is up to me to right this.

Image 2

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Writing 101 Day 3 – Three Songs

Today’s assignment is Day 3: Commit to a writing practice - Write about the three most important songs in your life -- what do they mean to you? Today, try free writing. To begin, empty your mind onto the page. Don't censor yourself; don't think. Just let go. Let the emotions or memories connected to your three songs carry you. 

So here we go...

I’m not a traditionalist so when it came to planning my wedding I aimed to eschew with as much tradition as possible mainly because of old fashioned wedding tradition has got to do with wives obeying husbands and such things. Those of you who know me, will know I was having none if it! I wanted to get married to a wonderful man, share my life with him. That’s all.

The song I chose to walk down the aisle (yes yes I know what you’re thinking, I got married in a church, mainly because my Mom wished it to be so and when parents are paying for the wedding there are some things that I had to let go of) was not the wedding march but Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale.

The organist was very excited to play a different song and had fun writing the sheet music for the organ. So why the Whiter Shade of Pale then? It’s a beautiful song, I like the melody and the lyrics are very mysterious. I’m not one of those people that reads much into the song lyrics, I often don’t remember them only the choruses. I just like what it sounds like.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller is the second song that comes to mind. It’s the ultimate party song that gets me up and dancing when it comes on the radio or the DJ plays it. The video blew me away, it was long, I adored the story and the dancing…wow! It had me, along with thousands of others trying to copy the moves. It still blows me away whenever I see it all these years later. It reminds me of my teenage years, finding my own taste in music (other than my parents’).

One by U2 surprises me each time. I surprise myself with how it surprises me. It starts off so softly, so gently and then surprises me with its power. With Mary J Blige singing it along with Bono the roof literally comes down. This song changes my state instantly. It puts me in a hopeful and inspired state, it uplifts me every single time. I’ve watched many versions of this song on YouTube, each one subtly different to the last one. When it comes on the radio while I’m on my way to work I turn up the volume and move to it.

Well this was fun and scary at the same time, uninterrupted writing, no editing. I’m publishing. If you’re reading this, be gentle. 

A room with a view

The car sped through the narrow road, dodging oncoming traffic and narrowly missing cars in front it… and the kerbside. The driver, my late cousin’s boyfriend drove, maniacally, totally unaware of the havoc he was causing in the nervous system of its passengers.

He was driving completely unsafely, blissfully unaware of road signs and the white middle line dividing the road into 2 lanes. Hooters sounded and he carried on talking, a non-stop narrative of the history of the countryside and its attractions.

My Grandmother, in the front seat, listened and gave encouraging sounds, hoping that she’d be distracted from danger we were in.  My sister and I, crammed into the back-seat of the small red Fiat thought that this holiday to Portugal would be our last.

My  white knuckled hands gripped the back of the driver’s seat. My sister seemed to be serenely looking out the window, trying not to look ahead at an impending frontal collision.

We were on our way north from Lisbon, to visit some of the spectacular beaches on the Portuguese Atlantic coast.

We stopped at a few beaches, thankfully climbing out of the car for a brief time to look at the scenery, before nervously getting back into the car to get to our next stop.

At midday our enthusiastic driver pulled into a small village for lunch…and there, perched almost on the edge of the cliffside was an abandoned church, a ruin of a building, its ancient walls rough but still intact, and no roof!

As I walked into the church a physical silence surrounded me like I had been transported to another place. I remember feeling bewildered at the silence that enveloped the place, the voices outside seeming to be coming from a distance. The sun shone through the broken beams of the roof and cast its slat-like rays through the dust swirls onto the ground.

I walked through the centre aisle, the pews dusty and realised with surprise that people still went there to worship. And I totally understood why. There was a peace, a serenity, a holiness about that place that made me feel at one with the universe.  I lingered a while but not long enough. I haven’t been back since.

It was as though that church, without its roof, with its dusty pews, and black veiled village women praying under the rays of the sun was put there to help me realise that there is a higher power at play.

If I could zoom to another place right now it would be to this abandoned church high atop an Atlantic cliffside on the coast of Portugal. I don’t remember the name of the village or the church, but this place is one I visit often in my mind when I am in need of peace, solace and a re-connection with myself.