Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen
mrissa

Stupid adjectives anyway.

For the record, I have participated in exactly one of the window adjective thingamawhatsits, and that was pegkerr's, with the positive set of adjectives, and I used a name she will recognize as me (I believe it was something subtle like Mris). Some of my friendslist people have specifically requested anonymous participation, some the opposite. I'm not playing either way.

I have a problem with adjectives. One of my best former teachers, Marylyn, gave me a journal that she insisted was just for writing character sketches in. It now contains the sort of information about the characters in Fortress of Thorns and The Grey Road that you keep compiled for the sake of consistency: that Minor Character X has blue eyes and Spear Carrier Y is short, that Main Character Z has a December 8 birthday. Because character sketches of the type Marylyn means are not how I work; they're not how I think of people.

I feel sure that some fiction writers get a great deal of benefit out of telling about people that way, but it is frankly contrary to my storytelling impulse. If I could just sit down and tell you that Charlotte is a very stubborn person, intelligent, and fixated on figuring things out, I wouldn't have to write a four-book series with Charlotte in it. Adjectives don't cover it. Action covers it, dialog covers it, sometimes introspection covers it. But adjectives? No.

I am suspicious, is the problem. If a book tells me that Jane is generous, I say, "Really? What does she do that's so generous? Is she generous with stuff that matters to her, or does material stuff matter to her less than it does to many people? How does she behave that makes you think she has such a giving spirit? What could make her not be so generous?" This kind of adjective use makes me read with my arms folded and my mouth twisted: who says? And why should I trust you?

If someone asks me what kind of a person my friend S is (S is a psuper-psecret psubtle pseudonym for an actual friend), I won't say, "she's very conscientious" or "caring" or "generous," even though S is all of those things. I will say, "She spent her morning off taking T to the emergency room, and she worked nine hours overtime in one day to make sure everything was all right for the people she was helping." Or if they say, "What is markgritter's family like?", I might tell the story of my father-in-law and the borunjungens, or I might say how my biggest ongoing argument with my mother-in-law is about whether quantum mechanics is correct or not, and that seagrit is heartily tired of that argument even though it doesn't come up more than once a year.

I will tell stories 'til the cows come home. I just don't like adjectives.
Tags: akin to wardrobes, full of theories
Subscribe
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

  • 17 comments