Verb, That’s What Happening
On Almost an Author, Hope Toler Dougherty will be discussing parts of speech this year and started with verbs. Click here to read. I am adding what I have learned so far about using verbs.
When I was in college, a visiting author said she told some local reporters to use strong verbs in their writing. This is something I am relearning since I hired a fellow writer who is also a free-lance editor to edit my novel.
For example, let’s look at the sentence. “He walked across the street.”
Really? Is that all he did? I don’t want to waste an opportunity, so I need to pick a verb that conveys more action or description or both.
- If he’s angry: “He marched”, “He stalked”, or “He stormed off”
- If he’s in a hurry: “He ran”, “He raced”, “He scurried”, or “He dashed”
- If he’s relaxed: “He strolled”, “He sauntered”, or “He moseyed”
Some other words for “walk”: “ramble”, “wander”, “parade”, “tramp”, “hike”, “tread”, “pace”, and “step”.
Because I write from the first-person point of view of a teenager, I don’t want to use verbs only an adult would use. But my editor pointed out that in my effort to stay in character, I used the same verbs too often, which will bore my readers.
“Look” was the major culprit, not only as in “to see” but also in appearance I need to find synonyms that add variety to my writing while staying in character. Turning to my hand-dandy thesaurus, I find listed under “look” the synonyms “behold”, “perceive”, “discern”, “inspect”, “scan”, “stare”, “seem”, and “appear”. I won’t use the first three because my character wouldn’t use those words. But the others will work. So will “glance”, “glimpse”, “turn”, “move my eyes”, and “shift my gaze”.
If you write in third-person, select verbs that convey the correct meaning but not ones so obscure they send your reader to a dictionary, or worse, to another book.
My editor pointed out there is one place where you don’t want strong verbs. I’ll talk about that next time.