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:
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.
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!
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