She Gleefully Removes the Adverbs

I decided I ought to post some writing samples on my blog so you will find the first one below . It is a complete short story of only 295 words. It was originally 300 words but on rereading it just now I have removed another five words, adverbs mainly. That’s one of the common mistakes that I make when I am writing fiction: too many adverbs. I try and cut out as many as possible during the redrafting because I think a peppering of adverbs makes my writing appear amateurish. In The Witch, I had an “explained pleasantly”, “peered tentatively” and a “wound itself affectionately.” Now that I have removed the superfluous adverbs I think it reads better.

The Witch

Everybody knew Ms Penfold was a witch. She dressed in a black cloak and stalked through the forest at dusk gathering ingredients for her potions in a wicker basket. My dad said he had seen her dancing in her garden at midnight, and she had a black cat.

Playing in the street one afternoon, I was drawn towards Ms Penfold’s house by an eerie voice crying “Help!” from the untamed garden. Was it a child locked in the shed that Ms Penfold was fattening up to cook? I peered over the hedge and saw Ms Penfold sprawled in a tangle of black cloth and branches on the ground. “You child, please help me,” she called. “I’ve sprained my ankle.”

I wondered vaguely if it was a trick to lure me into the witch’s den but, before my troubled brain could intervene, my feet were already carrying me towards the beckoning woman.

The folds of the austere black cloak masked a surprisingly slight frame. I could support Ms Penfold easily as she limped back into the house. As we came through the back door, the sleek black cat wound itself around our ankles and purred.

The air in the house was ripe with the sickly sweet scent of blossoms. The aroma diffused out of vibrantly coloured flowers and herbs, strung upside down from a wooden pulley to dry.

“They’re for my home made remedies,” Ms Penfold explained, sweeping a hand towards a large cauldron dominating the fireplace. “Do you know there is a natural cure for most ailments? Now, where is my arnica for this ankle…?”

That evening I told my parents about finding Ms Penfold injured in the bushes. “Pah!” snorted my dad. “She probably fell off her broom.”



2 thoughts on “She Gleefully Removes the Adverbs

  1. Helen, I love, love how tight this story is and your choice of words. They seems to have been handpicked with much care. So very so selective!!! I love the ending, too. You’ve done a great job!

    Coincidentally one of my works that is presently being considered is about witches, too. Great minds or what?

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