If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve heard me talk about the evils of adjectives and adverbs. Without rehashing previous posts, I’ll simply remind you that adjectives and adverbs usually indicate weak nouns and verbs. And while several writing instructors (myself included) will tell you to go back through your manuscript and find adjectives and adverbs for removal, few actually tell you to be proactive in your writing.
Here’s an idea you may like: Gather a list of strong nouns and verbs. Keep it in a file. The more specific, the better. Where do you find these nouns and verbs? Everywhere. Look through a cookbook and grab a couple very specific nouns (nutmeg, summer squash, lemon juice). While you’re there, grab a few verbs (emulsify, tenderize, season).
Turn on the television and watch the news. Listen to talk radio. Eavesdrop while you’re in the airport, the bus station, at school.
Have this list open while you’re writing. Make it your goal to include one of these words somewhere in your scene. The specificity of it will make the scene more visceral (hair the color of nutmeg, skin the complexion of melted butter, their relationship emulsified over the course of the following weeks, etc.).
The exercise should stretch you as a writer, which will produce stronger writing.
What are some other specific nouns and verbs that you can think of? How might they be used in similes and metaphors to strengthen your writing?