Make Every Word Matter: Part Two – Predicates

Remember our rule we began with in our last article: don’t use unnecessary words and make the words you use as specific and unique as possible. Monday were explored how this fit the world of nouns. Now we will see how this suits verbs. If you wish to see that post, then click here.

Verbs

Verbs are where the action is found, so these are the most important words in the sentence. To convey the greatest action they must give us the most specific action. Think of the verb walk. You can say a certain character walks into a room, but that is not very specific. Instead try saunter, march, amble, stomp, or many other varieties.

Not only is the action more specific, but it gives you better idea of what is going on in the character’s mind. A person stomps into a room quite differently than they would amble into a room. But also a person who stomps had a clear and deliberate purpose. Someone who ambles into a room is lacking the deliberate intent of a stomper. Or maybe the ambler wishes to avoid some interaction. Using specific verbs gives specific action and further specifies the characters who act.

There is one area where using the simplest verb with no variance is preferred, and that is in using the word said in taglines. Writers want to show off their creativity and use taglines with he declared, he answered, he proclaimed, he protested, and so forth. Just use said always. It looks like you are trying to be cute. Also, it takes attention away from the dialogue and puts an unwanted emphasis on the tagline.

Adverbs

No part of speech has been so vilified as the adverb, and in my opinion, rightly so. Keep in mind the grammatical function of the adverb is to describe how the noun performs the action of the verb. If you noticed my use of describe in that previous sentence, then you know where I am heading.

Adverbs are a telling device, not a showing technique. Not only that, it often trumps the showing of action that there may be by the verb. Whenever you use an adverb, and you are editing your work, ask yourself how this action can be done in the way it is described. For example, with the sentence, “The boy walked out of the room quietly,” how can a boy walk out of the room quietly? How you answer the question fixes the problem because you will answer with action.

He sets the book down upon a pillow on the couch, he tip-toes across the room, he looks about to see if anyone hears him, he turns the door knob with deliberation, he opens the door aware of the squawk it made and held his breathe, he looks around once more, he sneaks out and closes the door without slamming the doorframe or exciting the tumbler in the door latchet. All of that is showing action that you can probably express better than what I just did, and still show all this without having to say the bow walked out of the room quietly.

The painted doesn’t use a color he doesn’t need, nor would a composer add notes that do not fit the tune. Likewise, Creative Writers do not use unnecessary words. We make every word count. If we don’t need a particular word, we leave it out, and if a better word can be use, we use that one instead. This sounds simple but as Creative Writers we know how difficult this all is, but still we do what is in accordance to our craft and what is best for the story. We know this is what is best for us as well as for our readers.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Creative Writing

3 responses to “Make Every Word Matter: Part Two – Predicates

  1. Pingback: The Rules of Writing | The "Professional" Blog of J. M. Brink

  2. I’m not a big fan of “said.” That having been uttered, however, I will muse that what you declaimed about writers getting too cute in tag lines was one of the things that beta readers remarked about my own dialogue. Maybe the last sentence was a good example of your point, but if you replace all the verbs in it with “said,” you’d have one flabby sentence. It’s easy to see where a compromise would improve both extremes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s