Muscle, Not Fat — Trimming the Adjectives and Adverbs

March 31, 2010 at 3:38 pm 2 comments

:Steering the Craft, Exercise Five – Muscle, Not Fat or Trimming the Adjectives and Adverbs
“Write a paragraph to a page (200-350 words) of descriptive narrative prose without adjectives or adverbs. No dialogue.
The point is to give a vivid description of a scene or an action, using only verbs, nouns, pronouns, and articles. Adverbs of time (then, next, later, etc.) may be necessary, but be sparing. Be chaste.”

Post writing observation: Whew! Who knew there were so many adjectives and adverbs? I’m sure there are still some in my attempt, but for now I’m calling it quits. This exercise took a fair amount of time. I kept going to the dictionary, looking up a perfectly innocent looking word, and saying “You too? You’re an adjective/adverb too? Dang.”
I’m at 190 words. A good exercise which I’ll try again. Join me! Post your attempt to trim the fat in the comments section.

I will allow myself the use of one adjective – great – for in this case it really is a proper noun – the Great Wall of China. Since we’ve just returned from our trip to Korea/China, it is fresh in my mind.  How can I adequately describe this awesome, grueling, incredible experience – the mighty fortifications, the curving walls, the uneven steps, the hard stone, the teeming tourists, the constant shouts of exclamation and joy, the hushed reverence, the deep sighs, the blowing wind, the icy steps, and the moving fog — without adjectives or adverbs?

I will try.

We climb. We stop. We breathe.  We climb. We stop. We breathe.  It is all we can do. It is all we want to do.
Eyes drink the view. Senses devour the moment. We are surrounded by mountains and sky and rock and history. They undulate in harmony. They dance with the horizon.
They whisper to us, inviting us to come. We answer with lungs that suck the air. We rally with legs that tremble; the muscles scream. Eyes scour the vistas; trudging brings us closer to grandeur. Anticipation races with heart beats. We dig feet into the rock and determination drives the journey.
We climb. We stop. We breathe.
We climb. We stop. We breathe.
We climb. We stop.
We cannot breathe.
To breathe spoils the moment.
Instead we soar with the mountains. The sky encircles us. Hands caress the stone. Flesh absorbs the rock. We reach to touch the spirit of the bodies who labored.
There is a sense of place in the world – place in nature and history and time – belonging. Knowing we are not, it feels like we are home.
The Great Wall of China.

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Entry filed under: Steering the Craft_Writing Exercises.

Two Voices On Professional Conferences

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stacy Jaffe  |  April 5, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Oh boy, that was challenging… but a great discipline. I’m sure there are some adverbs/adjectives in there despite my efforts.
    Thanks for reminding me of this exercise.

    Cat sleeping on the couch. Napping. Chest rises and falls. Breathing. Sleeping. Ears twitch in sleep. I sit by the open window, the sounds and smells of spring enter the house. A leaf scuttles across the pavement. A sparrow chatters. A child pushes off the sidewalk on a scooter and the cat rolls over, looks up at me and squeaks. Children are back in school today. House sits on the dirt surrounded by sidewalks and grass. I sit inside without any other people asking me questions, telling me stories, wanting something. Moments. Breath. Inhale and exhale. I chop up days like vegetables for a party. Carrots in one corner, celery and broccoli next to each other. Peppers –opposing corner from carrots. I like contrast. But these are days, not vegetables. I want to savor them. Children are not celery, to be washed and stacked in a corner. A boyfriend is not a pepper, to be seeded and sliced. A heart is not a carrot to be shaved and nibbled. Well maybe nibbled.

    Reply
    • 2. Sue Black  |  April 5, 2010 at 12:05 pm

      Love it, love it!! Your words brought me right into your house and your heart. That’s what I’m talking about.
      Thanks for taking the time to share your results. You’ve made my day, Stacy. sbb

      Reply

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