No, not you, dear reader. I’m talking about you — suddenly!
According to horror writer Steven King, “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Quickly, quietly, bravely, softly, intentionally and frantically are all lined up like cobblestones, pointing us towards the perilous graveyard of words never read.
Standing proud above the rest is the word suddenly. Suddenly takes a slow moving verb and changes it into a fast moving verb. He suddenly rose to his feet means the same thing as he leapt to his feet.
And according to King, it’s far better to just use the right verb in the first place than it is to modify a weaker one with an awkward -ly descriptor. For example, rushed sounds better than suddenly went.
Children’s books are riddled with the word suddenly. Suddenly, the fox turned and snapped his jaws at the gingerbread boy. Suddenly, the pumpkin turned into a beautiful coach. Suddenly, they fell in love, got married and lived happily ever after.
When I write, I try to go easy on the adverbs. I do my best to find fat, juicy verbs that don’t need modification. I try leave suddenly and its pals for the hardcover books full of dogs and talking teacups in my kids’ rooms.
But then in early March, everything changed. Within the span of a few days, schools and businesses were shuttered. Social circles scattered for fear of spreading an invisible infection. We stopped going to work, to the gym and the library.
And all I can think of is how suddenly it all happened.
Suddenly, every school in the state shut down, leaving kids to shuffle through a pale approximation of their schoolwork at home.
Suddenly, we had to cancel birthday parties, playdates and get togethers with family, leaving us at home in an echo chamber of questions about how long this will last and whether it’s ok to go for a bike ride or not.
Suddenly, Tom Brady left the New England Patriots to play for the Buccaneers and it wasn’t even headline news!
Suddenly, every surface and every stranger started looking like a potential vector and we shut ourselves inside, hoping we to be able to go out again by summer.
We’ve entered a new day, and while there are benefits — like wearing workout clothes all day every day — it pretty much sucks. The old rules of life are gone. Or maybe they’ve been chopped up and stitched together in a new Frankenstein version of rules that includes secret toilet paper stashes and liquor store sanitizer.
So in this new world with its crazy new rules, maybe there’s room for a few more adverbs. So welcome back, suddenly! I’m really glad we can finally start using you again…unless maybe it means that we’re all just trapped inside a macabre children’s book or rolling merrily along the cobblestone path to hell!