Once upon a time, I knew a writer lady who, without even knowing it, gave me one of the greatest writing lessons I’ve ever had.
Of course, I freaked. I couldn’t imagine trying to say something like “a majestic old maple” without adjectives. I hit a wall, despaired, tail-spun and crashed and burned. I was a failure as a writer, because there was no way on God’s green earth I could ever write without adjectives.
A few days later, my good buddy Bryce told me King said to eliminate adverbs from your writing. Specifically, those ending in “ly” – and especially those “ly” words used in speaker tags, which are fondly remembered from the Tom Swifty books, or “Swifties”.
Once I regained my senses, and decided I’d rather write like King than not write at all, I set about to do just what he said to do – eliminate all “ly” adverbs from my prose. It was no simple task, at first. I finally figured out the reason for doing it is weak verbs and nouns. I set my jaw and started to work on gaining better grasps of using those everyday, every time tools, and I became a better writer – by leaps and bounds, if I do say so myself – for doing so.
To that writer lady: Thank you. You got the information wrong, but minimizing adjectives as well as adverbs only makes us stronger writers, too.
At any rate, time moved forward, and I ended up in a discussion with my buddy Ben in one of his posts. In my comment, I quoted my secondary hero (after Batman, of course), Invader Zim. If you’ve never seen Zim, you’re doing yourself a horrible disservice and should drop whatever you’re doing now (after finishing my post, of course) and go watch it. Zim took a standardized test in “Skool” [sic] which would tell the students what their future careers would be. Zim, of course, assumed he’d be lord of humans, so when his name was called, he bellowed he’d rule us all with his iron fist. When the announcement of a career in food service was issued instead, he proudly proclaimed he would prepare food with his iron fist, and work his way up to ruling us all with his fist. Then he pointed to the kid at the desk next to him and said “YOU! – Obey the fist!” And that’s the line I quoted.
Before long Ben and I were exchanging emails in which I signed off with “Obey the Fist”, and finally “OtF” for short. It stuck, and Ben took it to the next level to indicate his joining my movement to cause the extinction of the “ly” adverb in fiction prose and he started a movement he called “The Order of the Fist”. It’s charter members are me (ruling supreme adverb-hater and dictator for life), him (festering, bubbling anti-adverbite on the rise), and anyone else I can sour to adverbs in fiction (like my beloved, who now can’t read a book without spotting those glaring boils on the page).
So, I have taken it upon myself – though Ben took it so far as to design T-shirts, which were kick-ass – to anoint those of you in the Order of the Fist with the following image, which you can display upon your blog or any other place you’d like, with pride. But ONLY the members of the order, whose founding principle is the destruction and complete annihilation of the “ly” adverb from their prose, may use it.
Without further ado, here is the banner:
Use it with pride, oh Fisters! Use it with wisdom.