On Writing by Stephen King: Note to Self (1/2)

I’ve wrote about what I learn from On Writing┬áby Stephen King about being a writer. Here I begin to take notes from the part of the book on writing skills.

On Vocabulary

Use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful.

  • No need to be ashamed to use short and precise words
  • Don’t force unfamiliar “big words” into your writing
  • Use the first word that jumps into your mind

Avoid Passive Tense

  • Why? It’s weaker, harder to read, less clear.
  • Why? It’s the voice of a timid, fearful writer.
  • When? If using a subject brings up passive tense, try switching the subject.
    Example: "The body was hidden." vs. "The killer hid the body."

Adverb Is Not Your Friend

  • Why? Avoiding it will lead to a better expression. Example: “He closed the door firmly” vs. “He slammed the door.”
  • Why? It’s lazy and uncreative.
  • Why? Adverbs are weeds among good writing.
  • Where? In dialogue attribution:
    • If you write in active verbs, the readers should already follow the speakers’ emotions without adverbs. Adverbs only weaken the writing.
    • It’s best to use “said”, also 1 of the Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. And avoid over using attribution verb, like he “gasped”.
    • “…” he said, with a flush. This is an adverb phrase–a taller weed.

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