Harry V. Harrison

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Professor McGonagall sniffed angrily.

“Oh yes, everyone’s celebrating, all right,” she said impatiently. “You’d think they’d be a bit more careful, but no — even the Muggles have noticed something’s going on. It was on their news.” She jerked her head back at the Dursleys’ dark living-room window. “I heard it. Flocks of owls… shooting stars…. Well, they’re not completely stupid. They were bound to notice something. Shooting stars down in Kent — I’ll bet that was Dedalus Diggle. He never had much sense.”

“You can’t blame them,” said Dumbledore gently. “We’ve had precious little to celebrate for eleven years.”

“I know that,” said Professor McGonagall irritably.

Not so good: I love Harry Potter, don’t get me wrong. But the adverbs! Why so many adverbs? Rowling’s story is ingenious, but the adverbs distract me, not to mention ruin all elementary school children who believe adverbs are the only true way thanks to Harry.

“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut

A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.

“Huh” said George.

“That dance-it was nice,” said Hazel.

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

 

Better: Ah Vonnegut. He still uses adverbs, but sparingly and in artistic ways. In this paragraph, “said” is the power verb that disappears as you read, helping you focus on dialogue and what Vonnegut is trying to show.

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