The Drama of Verbs Starts Now


Chapter 3: Verbs from Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale

“Verbs add drama to a random grouping of other words, producing an event, a happening, an exciting moment. They also kick-start sentences: without them words would simply cluster in suspended animation, waiting for something to click.”

One of the suggestions I read for writing fiction is to keep a diary. Among the entries should be a sentence a day. I usually enter about three sentences a week. I get side tracked.

What I like about  Sin and Syntax is the ability to concentrate on certain parts of a sentence. It becomes so normal to speak or write a certain way that I forget what each word is to do. I take writing for granted.

How are words to perform? Someone told me in passing that they like the way I write, without adjectives. I think they meant it as a compliment, but I took it as if I had early onset dementia.

I went back and reexamined my writings, all the while asking myself how could I have excluded adjectives. I felt like saying smoothly and with distaste that I consider warm hot days with a cool breeze the most appealing when eating chocolate marshmallow ice cream.  All of a sudden, for bad or for worse, I had longer sentences.

Elmore Leonard said,  “Always say said after dialogue. Don’t use ‘he whispered,’ ” etc. Maybe I was on to something by not using adjectives or adverbs.

First I have to read about verbs in chapter 3. Adjectives are not until chapter 4. None of us gets through a writing without using verbs. “First I to the of chapter 3” doesn’t make sense. 

Writing is hard work.

14 thoughts on “The Drama of Verbs Starts Now

  1. Carl D'Agostino March 22, 2014 / 5:06 pm

    when did noun conflict or verb conflict become accepted as adj conflicted? I hear that all the time-doesn’t seem right.

    • fictionfitz March 22, 2014 / 5:13 pm

      Not to mention adverbs.

  2. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist March 22, 2014 / 5:08 pm

    It’s funny how we write without analysing what we are writing. I am trying to do that now also and also trying to replace passive verbs with active verbs. I understand your problem with adjectives – I guess there has to be a happy medium.

    • fictionfitz March 22, 2014 / 5:13 pm

      The passive is a tough one too. One of the words that comes up passive a lot is “was.” Am I right? If so, when you read a classic or best seller, count the was’s. I count many. What am I missing?

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist March 22, 2014 / 5:44 pm

        I think any time the helper verb “to be” or any form of to be is used that makes a passive. I use passive a lot but in my editing I try and rewrite the sentence. eg “The dog has to be fed and walked, .” is passive voice.
        To make active it could be changed to “She has to feed and walk the dog. Usually if you put a subject before the verb which is doing instead of the object of the sentence having it done to them you’ll get an active sentence.
        When you say “I was there.” Was is not in the helper be mode and followed the subject of the sentece I and this makes it the active verb. A passive sentence would be something “breakfast was eaten by the man as soon as he woke.
        A bit garbled but I hope that makes sense Bob

      • fictionfitz March 24, 2014 / 7:46 am

        Good and concise, should be of help. Sin & Syntax also suggest using super charged verbs. The idea of a rewrite just to check out verbs had never crossed my mind before. Good idea!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist March 24, 2014 / 9:09 am

        Have fun with it. I reckon that you probably spend 10percent of time writing, 40percent on the edit and then 50 percent trying to sell the piece. The editing can be so satisfying though – bordering on fun even….

      • fictionfitz March 24, 2014 / 9:11 am

        Can’t say I am there yet. All this month has been editing. New writes are part of it, and I am still trying to work on a regular fiction routine. Writing is getting better and deeper. Love the book Sin and Syntax. Best so far on grammar. Keeps me interested.

  3. evelyneholingue March 22, 2014 / 6:13 pm

    Finding a way to avoid an adverb is hard but I agree that strong evocative verbs are so much better. I like your idea of keeping a diary. As a non native English speaker I carry a notebook. First I used it when I bumped in a word or a verb I didn’t know. Soon I took notes when I read a great sentence. And lists of verbs, too.
    Thanks for this post.

    • fictionfitz March 24, 2014 / 7:48 am

      This diary idea is growing in me, not there yet, but the more things I track as to writing, the more it becomes relevant to me. Better than writing, “Today I walked the dog.” Thanks for your comments.

  4. New Hampshire Garden Solutions March 22, 2014 / 6:43 pm

    I like to just throw all the rule books in the fireplace and write. But then comes editing, so there is no escaping the pain.

    • fictionfitz March 24, 2014 / 7:49 am

      Brings new meaning to editor. First I hope to publish a book, and then sell enough to hire an editor to edit.

  5. Carole Webber March 22, 2014 / 8:14 pm

    I like verbs as they express an action. Actin grabs our attention especially in fiction. Adverbs tell us how the action is done. It makes what we are experiencing in the text real

    • fictionfitz March 24, 2014 / 7:50 am

      Probably why we started See Spot run.

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