How many times have you heard the phrase "weak verbs" or "no adverbs" or "no words ending in -ly" during a critique or writing chat? It's one of those lingering rules in the community that says adverbs are bad. But are they?
I tend to be that guy that balks at all the rules. Here are my thoughts.
The short, easy rule goes thus: it's all just tools on the tool belt. Figure out how to use them well. That applies to just about any rule you encounter.
Adverbs: it's not so much that they are a sign of weak verbs--they certainly can be--but that some writers have been brainwashed and trained to reflexively shout, "weak verbs, weak verbs" when they see a word ending in -ly. No thought about how much they're enjoying the story or if the verb in question is working or not.
So here's the short version of my theory--taken from a forum comment I made last week.
I'll start with the examples.
Still, it is true that using too many modifiers will indeed make a manuscript feel wordy, fluffy and weak overall. It's one of those red flag things to be mindful of. (Note I didn't say rule.)
So here's my motto: modifiers modify things. If you have to modify the thing, maybe you chose the wrong thing to begin with. It's not a rule, just something to consider.
But some folks believe in rules. Some folks scan your manuscript looking for words that end in -ly so they can scream, "weak verb, weak verb." I love those comments. They let me know when to stop reading the critique and move on
When it comes to rules, I try to understand the wisdom behind the rule and forget the rule itself. It's like Matsuo Basho, the 16th-century Japanese poet told his students. "Learn the rules well, and then forget them." The rules are there for the beginning, but there is a deeper wisdom that you need to internalize before you really know what you're doing.
Writer of speculative fiction. Current work in progress is an untitled dark fantasy novella.