Immediately, Suddenly, Finally, Oh My! (why you should avoid time-based adverbs)

2692795097_2a2f7dbfb0_z

A lot of writers, especially when first starting out, fall in love with time-based adverbs.  It’s such an easy, tempting way to increase tension.  But is it really doing what you want it do?

Before getting into that, let’s start with some examples:

  • Suddenly
  • Immediately
  • Always
  • Often
  • Already
  • Finally
  • When
  • Then

Now that we know what they are, we need to ask ourselves: do these adverbs really have a place in novels?

Consider this passage with time-based adverbs:

Suddenly a hand clutched his arm.  He immediately froze, shaking in his shoes.  Then a warm trickle of blood ran down his arm.  When he touched it, he felt nothing but bare skin.  Finally, he turned around and saw that he was alone.

Now consider it without them:

A hand clutched his arm.  He froze, shaking in his shoes.  A warm trickle of blood ran down his shoulder.  He touched it and felt nothing but bare skin.  He turned around and saw that he was alone.

Punchier, right?

It seems logical that “immediately” would seem…well…immediate!  But the opposite is true.  Time-based adverbs slow down the action by taking up space.

But, you might ask, how will my readers know it was immediate without the “immediately”?

Easy!  If you write something and then write something else, without writing anything in between, your readers will automatically assume that it happened immediately.  Awesome, right?

Consider this passage:

Jonathon leaned in and planted a gentle kiss on my lips.  My heart fluttered in my chest.

So how much time passed between the kiss and her heart fluttering?  None, right?  That’s because we read narration as continuous.  We don’t assume that she went out and had some drinks with friends before her heart fluttered, because that’s not how we read novels.

So punch up your writing by limiting (or banishing) these time-based adverbs from your narration.  Your readers will thank you!

If this post was helpful, please share it!

Need an editor for your novel? Check out my editing services.

087

3 thoughts on “Immediately, Suddenly, Finally, Oh My! (why you should avoid time-based adverbs)

  1. mclesh says:

    I try to avoid adverbs as much as possible. It’s not that I have anything against them, it’s just that when I pick up a book and it has too many adverbs, I want to put it back down. Immediately.

    Congratulations on your blog launch! It looks grate. I mean great. 🙂

  2. Raúl says:

    I’ve never thought of the damage those specific adverbs do to our writing. I love playing with time and continuity, aiming to weave seamless transitions between time, POV’s, reality layers, and every other element of the story telling art. The content in your blog is great, this post in particular has thaught me a valuable lesson. Thanks a lot!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s