Adjectives carry a fascinating role; they describe a noun. (A noun is the name of a person, place or thing, hence the common reference ‘a naming word’.) Adjectives can give nouns shape, color, even feeling. Take a look at these examples:
It’s a cold day.
Tony is a tall boy.
He was a con man.
The dog was scared.
In one word these amazing adjectives have conjured up a picture. What happens when we take the adjective out?
It’s a day.
Tony is a boy.
He was a man.
The dog was.
It leaves us with sentences that are useless, either stating the obvious or showing no clarity.
Therefore adjectives are necessary in creative writing, right? WRONG! Adjectives are so powerful that they tell us, the reader. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, ‘show it, don’t tell it’. This is my round about way of saying the exact same thing.
Showing instead of telling helps the reader experience. It can pull the author’s words from the page and make the story come ‘alive’. Perhaps the reader has been in a similar situation before and can relate, or the scenario may be completely foreign to the reader but skilful wording creates understanding, and feelings. This is the writer’s goal, to create and allow readers to experience all the same things they are reading. It doesn’t matter how old we get; no one likes being told. So doesn’t it make sense when reading that we still don’t want to be told what is happening? We want to experience it right along with characters.
The commuters turned their coat collars up and repositioned scarves while the wind whipped around their reddening faces.
All the schoolboys in the back row except Tony had to stand on a crate for the class photos.
The salesman ignored my questions and continued his fast paced monologue.
The dog backed further into the kennel unable to peel his wide eyes from the explosion in the sky, his whimper drowned out by the New Year celebrations.
Adjectives are a great way to unblock your thoughts. Start off with a simple sentence, for instance: The star twinkled brightly.
Then play with it and watch it grow. It may, for a moment, turn into a single star fighting it’s way through a cloud to be seen, and then ‘hey, presto’, before you know it you’ve launched into a science fiction story, or a falling meteorite that threatens human existence, or another form of life, or whatever. Give it a shot, you may just surprise yourself.