Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fiction Writing 101: Lesson # 8

Action Verbs
By Molly Noble Bull

Strong verbs produce strong writing. For example, the verb walked is an action verb. However, it is considered one of the weakest verbs one can choose to describe the act of walking because it produces a weak mental picture of what is going on in the story.

The verbs below produce better mental pictures.
For example, staggered.
What does staggered mean to you. Could the word describe a person who is drunk? Sick? Injured? Drugged? Elderly?

How about raced? Ambled? Strolled? Skipped? Hiked? Trekked? Trudged? Hobbled? Limped? Hopped? What mental pictures do these words place in your mind?

Look up all the words above in the dictionary and write down the synonyms for each. Make a list of all the words you can find that mean walked and write them down. Then do the same with other action words. Looked.

Action verbs describe an action. Look up the action verbs below and make a list of them as well as their synonyms. Nodded. Waved. Sighed. Gasped. Giggled. Laughed. Cried. Wept. Trembled. Wiggled. Danced. Sang. Hummed.

Scan novels you read for pleasure, underline the action words and add them to your list.

I do a search of certain words before sending a manuscript to an editor. Some of these are: Was, Were, Just, and Even.
An early draft of one of my manuscripts might say –
Jim was tired and wanted to go to bed.

Before sending my manuscript to an editor, I would rewrite the sentence above and leave out WAS.

I might write,
Jim fell across the bed—clothes and all.

Can you see how removing was and inserting an action verb produced a better mental picture of how Jim felt?

Jim was tired and wanted to go to bed is what we call “telling.”
Jim fell across the bed—clothes and all is “showing.”

This seems like a simple lesson to complete, and yet if done correctly, it could improve your writing skills. Nobody can get a story or novel right the first time. Published authors rewrite their manuscripts again and again and again until they get them right. Try to get in the habit of rewriting or revision everything you write before sending it to an editor, and add some action verbs to vitalize you weak sentences.

This will be the last lesson in this series. But I will still be posting info on writing every Wednesday. Stay tuned.
Molly Noble Bull

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