|Image: NY Times - Jeff Rogers|
A sentence can offer a moment of quiet, it can crackle with energy or it can just lie there, listless and uninteresting.
What makes the difference? The verb.
Verbs kick-start sentences: Without them, words would simply cluster together in suspended animation. We often call them action words, but verbs also can carry sentiments (love, fear, lust, disgust), hint at cognition (realize, know, recognize), bend ideas together (falsify, prove, hypothesize), assert possession (own, have) and conjure existence itself (is, are).
Fundamentally, verbs fall into two classes: static (to be, to seem, to become) and dynamic (to whistle, to waffle, to wonder). Static verbs stand back, politely allowing nouns and adjectives to take center stage. Dynamic verbs thunder in from the wings, announcing an event, producing a spark, adding drama to an assembled group.Isn't that beautiful writing from a writer writing about...well...writing? "Dynamic verbs thunder in from the wings.."
And what about Dynamic verbs and Dynamos:
The dynamos, by contrast, give us an instant picture of a specific movement. Why have a character go when he could gambol, shamble, lumber, lurch, sway, swagger or sashay?Constance then mentions Jo Ann Beard, with magnificant descriptions in her short story - “Cousins”
Picking pointed verbs also allows us to forgo adverbs. Many of these modifiers merely prop up a limp verb anyway. Strike speaks softly and insert whispers. Erase eats hungrily in favor of devours. And whatever you do, avoid adverbs that mindlessly repeat the sense of the verb, as in circle around, merge together or mentally recall.
“A duck stands up, shakes out its feathers and peers above the still grass at the edge of the water. The skin of the lake twitches suddenly and a fish springs loose into the air, drops back down with a flat splash. Ripples move across the surface like radio waves. The sun hoists itself up and gets busy, laying a sparkling rug across the water, burning the beads of dew off the reeds, baking the tops of our mothers’ heads.”For more of this article from the New York Times, transport your ideas to the author's marvelous world HERE.
Constance Hale, a journalist based in San Francisco, is the author of “Sin and Syntax” and the forthcoming “Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch.” She covers writing and the writing life at sinandsyntax.com.
Constance's book Sin and Syntax is available from Amazon HERE.