Flames of Fluff
Fran Cook, Publishing Assistants
Can a story be over-the-top with excessive adjectives? A powerful punchy statement can replace the need for descriptive banter. When do you decide that a sentence or paragraph needs a fire extinguisher to suffocate the flames of fluff? Perhaps when you, as the author, read your sentence and it causes you to ask, “what alien planet did this language come from”? If the writer has to scratch their perplexed cranium in dismay, remove a few adjectives to see if it reads less nonsensical—kind of how you want to remove my “perplexed cranium” statement above.
If you’re writing a satire piece, overuse belaboring adjectives to your heart’s content. The very nature of satire’s exaggerative, exhausting, expansive, winded (take a breath) descriptors add to the intensity and comic relief of the entire objective.
In your thriller, when you’ve already set the stage, with vivid imagery, painting the idea of where the character is and their state of mind at that moment, you can retreat and interject short, punchy, but powerful statements like, “Her heart beat relentlessly,” or, “She peered around the corner,” instead of “Her relentless heartbeat continued faster than the speed of light.” The first statement already helped the reader conclude that their heartbeat was racing out of control. Sometimes, those punchy statements that leave the audience hanging, pausing and wondering, hook and captivate the reader in the most dramatic way.
As you describe the character’s next step, the reader is taking that same slow or abrupt step; maybe even a tip-toe before they turn the page of your thrilling and mysterious tale.
One last, but important point is, if your adjective or adverb doesn’t add anything, except redundancy, then ditch it. An example that William Noble makes is instead of, “He whispered to her lovingly,” the more impactful engaging statement is, “He whispered words of love.” This statement fills your emotional cup and keeps you wanting more.