Bridge to Story

The Last Adverb Search

Most time adverbs used will modify your verbs. Sometimes it’s easier to modify something rather than fix it. This is because we sometimes settle for verbs that are weak.

We find when we re-read own work that the verbs then need to be spruced up. But instead of changing our verb we add an adverb next to it. In this lesson, we see a better way of action-ing our inanimate objects so our verbs don’t rely on adverb camouflage. We tack on  –ly words to make things better.

Look where your verbs are and where they aren’t. If you give them only to your character, or to inanimate objects. Highlight your –ly words to see if you are over using them.

If you edit to make pictures with those verbs you won’t need as many adverbs, so the overused adverbs can then be removed or used better within your sentences.

Example Toggle


Put your nouns to work with the verbs you use. Examples:

Let’s say you have a helicopter in a sentence. Don’t just have it fly through the night. Try using carves as a verb for that noun.

Is there an old VW Bug in your story? Don’t just let your character drive. Have that old Bug negotiate across a few lanes of traffic.

Here's what I mean with a longer sentence that hopefully tells more of the story; as well as gives an image that feeds the subtext:

At the next stop sign, we pass a junk yard, rusted body parts lay all around, up against the chain links, like they’re begging for release.

Did you notice that none of these examples have to do with characters? Inanimate objects can be in action too.

Lesson Exercise 1 Toggle

Lesson Exercise 1:

Select a page of your own work.

Go scene by scene and circle every verb that is engaged in some type of action. Do this a page at a time.

  • First highlight the finds you come across. Don’t edit right away. Just notice the number of times you fine an action verb per chapter or scene.
  • Draw a red line through every instance of an adverb near your highlighted action verbs. Do this a page at a time.
  • If most of your verbs are not action-y words ask yourself why.

Is it because you left the action out of your writing? Or because you are using state-of-being verbs (was, had) instead of action verbs that work to make images?

Can you remove the adverbs and rework the remaining verb, bringing in a stronger active verb choice?

Can you take that action word and apply it to an inanimate object?

Explaining story facts is not a way to create images, Showing things in action is, whether it’s characters or objects you show us. S­tronger verbs help do that.