Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Use of a Verb Book

An off-line commentator queried my need for a verb book. Dictionaries and the thesaurus would surely be enough, he said.

I thought that too when I began to want to write in the active personal voice.

This is more difficult than you think for a person trained in the story telling tradition. Where you get things like this, '... and then this happened and then that happened ...'

Writing funding applications for various institutions isn't the appropriate training either. Here the format tends to be something like this, '... The educational, scientific and cultural arguments and resources for this project are contained in the following ...'

Added to which fiction writing has become more visual in the last fifty years or so, influenced by the rise of film. There's the "Show, don't tell." exhortation. The way to do this, is to describe particularities and specifics.

And more recently, the increasing fashion to write in first person point of view or third person limited,  being that character and feeling along with that character.

Hence the need to train myself to use better, more specific verbs. In effect, keeping verbs and what they can do for a story in the fore front of my mind. Though my verb book is indexed, and that suggests a dictionary, I'll be reading it over every so often to get the words and their uses floating about in that wonderful stream of my consciousness that produces the writing.

One thing I'm already finding is that the verbs themselves may be quite ordinary. Like 'pinch', for instance. It's the way they are used that makes them interesting. '... she pinches the lapels of her suit together ...' (Sea Glass by Anita Shreve.) The way words are used in combination with other words is what makes them interesting.

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