Verbs, verbs, verbs. Get used to it, because now that you’re a writer, you’ll hear about them often and be told again and again to make them stronger. What in the world is a stronger verb anyway? It’s one that leaps into a reader’s visualization of a scene. It shows love or pain in such a way that a reader’s guts might knot. Lame verbs drain the impact you’re trying to make. Worse yet, verbs that require propping up by adjectives are even weaker.
Let’s make a couple comparisons:
She swung around and planted her hands on her hips as she shouted at the boy.
She turned and shouted loudly at the boy.
Which of those sentences has greater impact visually and emotionally? Right, the first, because swung around shows urgency or fervor and planted shows anger even before we hear that she shouted.
The second sentence uses shouted, but for all we know, it’s to warn of danger rather than display anger. The prop-up adjective loudly really does nothing for the verb. It’s redundant. Isn’t a shout loud anyway?
Blake plunged off the cliff into the waves.
Blake jumped forward, falling into the waves.
Okay, again, it seems like two different things are happening even though I’m picturing the same scene in my head. In the first sentence plunged shows that Blake is rushing, anxious perhaps. Maybe he’s having fun, or maybe he’s about to save someone.
But in the second sentence not only is jumped a lame verb, it tells me Blake is not in such a hurry. And why say forward? Unless someone really is jumping backward, wouldn’t we just assume that forward and up is the direction of a jump? It’s a wasted adjective.
- Search your WIP for soft, flabby, and boring verbs, and especially the dreaded BE VERBS (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been).
- Eliminate adjectives in every possible instance.
- Replace those verbs with something concrete.
Here are some examples:
Walked: swaggered, trotted, strolled, danced, marched…
Sat: plopped, tumbled, dropped, parked…
Threw: tossed, flung, chucked, pitched, hurled, lobbed, heaved…
Made a loud noise: rattled, clamored, rang, crashed, thundered, roared, boomed…
Was, were, and all other be verbs, instead of he was worrying or they were leaving, just say, he worried, or they left.
Ready to charge into your WIP and attack those lifeless verbs? Go!