Of Christmas, Kidney Stones, Wilford Brimley, Vampires, and Adverbs

Can we talk Christmas for a minute? I know it’s over and everything, but I have a little Christmas story I’ve been dying to tell you. Not the uplifting kind, mind you. More the, if-you’re-easily-offended-you-should-look-away kind. Also, if you have a special fondness for adverbs and authors who use a lot of them–not naming any names (yet)– then you should probably skip this post all together.

My story starts on Christmas Eve with my family’s traditional gag gift exchange. This year the prize for Best Gag Gift Ever went to my brother who handmade his gift for my father. Whom, you should know, sometimes suffers from kidney stones and had passed some just days before our Christmas Eve celebration. With this in mind my brother, who is a manufacturing engineer (whatever that it is) and therefore good at making things, created a kidney stone catcher for my dad. A hands-free one. And then cleverly named it Dr. Cox’s Hands Free Kidney Stone Catcher.

Dr. Cox’s kit not only included a strainer attached to some adjustable rope shoulder straps to hold it in place, but also a “bitin'” stick. I have a picture of my dad demonstrating how the contraption works (though not the actual stone passing necessitating the device), but he threatened to disown me when I mentioned it would be going on my blog. And then I got a new phone, but the picture stayed on my old one. Otherwise, I probably would have risked being kicked out of my family– it was that good.

The runner-up prizes go to my sister-in-law and me. And since I can’t post the picture I want of my dad, I’ll post one of her:

That’s my dog she’s holding, after Lola was found and sheared. And you know what else my SIL holds? A PhD from Cornell University. Which makes her a doctor. A doctor of plants and their pathology, but still a doctor. And, as far as I know, she is the only doctor, ever, in the whole history of the Nelson family line. Drunks we’ve got; doctors, not so much.

So for her gag gift I gave her a picture of this man:

Who she once referred to, in all seriousness, as Elder Wilford H. Brimley. That Dr. Smarty-pants (as my SIL is affectionately known) thought Wilford Brimley was a general authority is funny enough on it’s own. But the fact she assigned him a middle initial makes her mistake pretty darn hilarious. Because, as we all know (if we’re Mormon. If not, this is sort of a had-to-be-there joke. Sorry), you can’t be in the upper echelons of church leadership without an initial as part of your name.

Her gift to me, though, was just as clever. Here it is:

How is one of the greatest books of all time a gag gift, you ask? Well, I asked the same thing.

Until I opened it and read this:
About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was part of him–and I didn’t know how potent that part might be–that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.”

Angela had doctored up–very convincingly, I might add– a copy of Twilight to look like  Pride and Prejudice. Thereby making me gag! Brilliant, I tells ya. Brilliant!

But actually, my doctored up P&P has come in pretty handy. You see, despite swearing off any and all things having to do with vampires or werewolves (though I’m leaving my options open for anything with mummies), I’ve been toying with a story idea that would require some knowledge of the Twilight series. Which means I’d need to read it. I’d thought about downloading it to my Kindle, but hated to pay for it. And now I don’t have to. I can not only read it in public without embarrassment, but also look like I am a smarty-pants too.

So I have been (reading it, that is. I don’t know about the looking like a smary-pants part). And do you know what I have discovered?

Adverbs. Lots and lots of adverbs.

And do you know what the first rule in writing is?

Show don’t tell. Which is another way of saying, “if it ends in -ly, get rid of it.”

Now go back and read that paragraph from Twilight. Did you notice how many words end in -ly? Three. Out of forty-four words. Which works out to about one in every fifteen words. And I’d say that’s pretty consistent with the entire book, judging by what I’ve read so far.

I’m not saying this means Ms. Meyers is not a good writer (I’ll keep those reasons to myself), I’m just saying she likes her some adverbs. And you know who else does?

J.K. Rowling. Whose books I actually really like (all this talk of adverbs has pushed me to over-adverb myself).

And you know what else Stephanie Meyers and J.K. Rowling have in common besides their love for adverbs?

Large bank accounts. Filled with money. I’d guess about a million dollars for every adverb used in their each of their books.

And that’s a lotta adverbs.

9 thoughts on “Of Christmas, Kidney Stones, Wilford Brimley, Vampires, and Adverbs

  1. Melanie Jacobson says:

    So one of the first and worst side effects of becoming a writer is that for a while, it ruins reading for you. You can't turn of the editor in your brain. But then that fades a little (it will always happen with mediocre books) and the big upside of this side effect comes into play: it makes good books even better because you have the added appreciation of knowing exactly how hard it is to do what the author did.Having said that, your Twilight experience will continue pretty much as it began.


  2. Maggie says:

    I love the doctored version of Pride and Prejudice. And was Brimley Mr. Witherspoon? Or am I just making that up in my mind. At least I know he isn't Elder Brimley.


  3. Brittany says:

    Amber – 1) you need to change your settings from noreply comment so that I can answer you via email. 2) I am more embarrassed for you that you know that than that I didn't.


  4. Kimberly says:

    Great gifts! Very funny. And I love your commentary on adverbs. –You know what I hate? When people use an adverb incorrectly. (If I weren't afraid that my snarkiness wouldn't come through, I could have said when people don't use adverbs correct). 🙂 But seriously, love your blog.


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