Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tom Swifties

I've learned something from one of my crit partners that I had absolutely never heard of before, but makes total sense. Tom Swifties. To quote the Random House Dictionary:

Tom Swiftie, a play on words that follows an unvarying pattern and relies for its humor on a punning relationship between the way an adverb describes a speaker and at the same time refers significantly to the import of the speaker's statement, as in: "I know who turned off the lights," Tom hinted darkly.

Not that I was intentionally trying to make a play on words with my speech tags in my novel. I thought I would broadening the description of what was being said. But in truth, my writing was strong enough without it. Almost every single time, the -ly adverb was completely unneeded.

But not only did I do this in speech tags, I did it EVERYWHERE. Just -ly adverbs all over the place, serving no purpose but to clog up the writing.

My favorite examples from my own writing (Katie, you should love this!):

Anna laughed loudly, this time causing others to look our way. "Loudly" isn't needed at all.

His brow furrowed slightly. As opposed to furrowed fully?

"Must be a story behind a declaration like that," Anna said conversationally. How does one converse conversationally? I laughed hard at this one. This might actually fit the definition of a Tom Swiftie.

She sat down quickly, her cheeks flushing gently. Joshua tried unsuccessfully to hide his grin before turning around. A gentle flush. I was trying to go for a flush that wasn't beet red all over..just a tinge on the cheeks. Why didn't I just write that instead? She sat down in a rush, a pink tinge on her cheeks. (I just went back and changed that, by the way.)

So I'm going to work on tightening up my prose and dialogue. I'm really pleased with my first 15 pages of this story I'm going to turn in on for the Genesis competition now. No less than seven people have edited/critiqued it and I feel that it's in good shape now.

So thanks to all who had a part in this! I'm not going to say that I've written the last Tom Swifty that I ever will, but they will less prominent from here on out.

Who knew?


Katie said...

Hey Jeannie, ah - those pesky "ly" words are so easy to type, aren't they? I amuse mysef when I go back and revise my first drafts. I use the delete button quite often. :)