You can have my adverbs and adjectives when you pry them from my clammy, tightly-curled fists.

Why you want to wait until I’m in full rigor is beyond me, but hey. To each their own, right?

I don’t understand– No, that’s not true. I understand why people get annoyed by thesaurus abuse, and I understand why people get annoyed by an overabundance of pedestrian adverbs. What I don’t understand is the absolute lack of compromise that I see in OMG NO ADVERBS/ADJECTIVES OR YOU SUCK!!!! “writing rules”.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that Kristen Lamb may be the one and only person I’ve ever seen to author a list of “writing rules” who actually explicitly states that it’s boring adverbial phrases like “she smiled happily” that need to die in a fire — but something like “she smiled, gleefully wielding her scalpel” is acceptable.

See, the thing is, you canNOT write without adjectives. Since I’m a highly visual person, I find examples to be far more illuminating, so here! Let’s have another experiment:

This is the first two paragraphs of my Sailors story, with every adjective, adverb, or other remotely descriptive word removed:

Everyone lined the railing. Tevseth was searching.

There. Tevseth caught sight of Kelvi, watching healers helping the men.

No adjectives, no adverbs, no prepositions. What do we learn from this? Well… There’s a railing… And some people, two of whom we’re maybe supposed to start caring about, but…

But what railing? Where is it? Who’s Kelvi, why should healers bother helping the men, what is it that Tevseth sees? Why the hell should we give a tin-plated rat’s ass? Who knows? I sure don’t — and if someone wanted me to read their story and this is what greeted me? I’d be clicking the ‘close tab’ X or the back button without bothering to see what happened in paragraph three.

So here, try those two ‘graphs again, this time with the dreaded and deadly descriptors (but no alliteration):

Everyone who could stand lined the railing as the Sea Dragon limped into the harbor, two and a half weeks late. Tevseth could see the crowd on the docks—most waving, some jumping up and down—and leaned forward, searching for one familiar figure. It wasn’t until they were manuvering into their berth that he found him.

There. Gold-brown hair glimmering in the sunlight, green eyes he couldn’t see yet, a wiry body half a head shorter than most and a full head shorter than himself. Tevseth’s throat went tight as he caught sight of Kelvi, standing toward the back of the crowd and watching the town’s healers helping the badly injured men off the boat.

There. Now we know where the railing is and what it’s attached to: on a boat! We also know why people are at the railing — they’re finally home. Tevseth is looking for someone among the crowd — not an easy task, because the crowd is just as happy to see their sailors as the sailors are to see home — and we know when Tevseth finds him. We immediately know that Kelvi is important to Tevseth (physical reaction); we also see that Kelvi is watching the healers because there are injured men that need help getting off the boat. We can guess that Kelvi is probably looking to see if Tevseth is among those who can’t move under their own power, but that’s not nearly as obvious as the rest of it.

And all of that information is conveyed through the use of adjectives, prepositions, and at least one adverb. Oh, and italics, but I’ve covered those elsewhere.

So no. I’m going to just keep on ignoring the screams and wails of THOU SHALT NOT when it comes to adjectives and adverbs, because I am trying to tell a story, here. Something made up out of whole cloth. Fake. Factitious. Fiction. If I tried to do it without adjectives, adverbs, or any other descriptors, you’d have something like “There was man.” and that is IT. Not really a story, there, not as it is.

(Edited to remove another prepositional phrase.)