Copywriting: Learn It By Stephen King’s Method

The copywriting Road to Hell: Learn it by Stephen King, or else!Which is better? This one:

The woman walked leisurely toward the man at the bar and took the drink out of his hand.

“Who do you think you are?” he asked curtly.

“You’ll find out very soon,” she answered sexily.

Or this?

The woman moseyed over to the man at the bar and took his drink.

“Who do you think you are?” he demanded.

The woman winked. “You’ll find out soon enough.”

I give a nod to Stephen King as I write this.

“The road to hell is lined with adverbs,” King maintains; and advises fledgling writers to avoid them at all costs.

What’s so bad about them? To answer that, first you have to look at the reason they exist. An adverb’s job is to describe how, where, when, how much, or to what extent. It clarifies the meaning of the verb or adjective it modifies.

But I think he’s really talking about the biggest offenders — those words that end in -ly.

To rephrase that (I could have started, “To say it differently”) the point here is to use stronger verbs and adjectives when you write. Verbs and adjectives that say what you mean. Colorful ones.

If you need an adverb, try a better verb instead.

Some cases require you to grab an adverb or adverbial phrase. You can’t argue that the sentence “She washed her hair last night” is terrible just because it contains the phrase “last night.”

One blog I read, Daily Writing Tips, posts alternatives for common words like “walk” and “eat.” For example, “20 Ways to Laugh” (chortled, tittered): Lists like these are useful and fun for writers and I recommend you seek them out for inspiration. However, there are not too many ways to clarify verbs like “mow” or “applaud” without those hated adverbs.

So what do you do?

You don’t need my permission to use them. I choose them frequently, so who am I to talk? (See, there!) But reaching for the right action word does elevate your writing.

Stephen King is the kind of story teller people stay up all night for. His characters were always secondary to the situations they found themselves in and so his writing tends to be lean and mean; filled with action, and punches of detail.

Copywriting is all about telling a great story so people will remember it; by Stephen King’s strong opinion against adverbs, you’re learning from a master.

Try writing without adverbs just once and see what happens to your story.