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Friday, November 4, 2011

Writing Strong Part II

Do-Nothing Verbs

Passive verbs or double verbs dilute the storyline. In passive voice, the object of the verb has no action. Examples:

The sounds were muted by the brushy growth.
He was taken to a building on the square.
The gift was exchanged for a blanket.

Nothing grammatically wrong but a passive phrase weakens the writing. All of these are easily fixed.

Brushy growth muted the sounds.
They took him to a building on the square.
He exchanged the gift for a blanket.

Note the object of the verbs in an active sentence changed from the end to the beginning of the sentence.

To be’ verbs -- am, are, is was, were, be, become, became -- are not toxic but use them thinly. Sprinkle them. Don’t spackle. Just remember, a strong verb makes the sentence move.

Strong verbs stand erect. Unfettered, they carry your story.

He cracked the bottle against the ship. The glass shattered.

Verb qualifiers are sort of like, kind of wishy-washy. They tend to gum up the works.

Examples: Sort of, Kind of, Tends to, Tries to.

They slow the flow. The pause with flaws.

Punch up your prose with active strong verbs. Don’t be afraid to use the ‘to be’ verbs but

“Everybody’s got to know their limitations” -- Dirty Harry

*regarding the picture at the top. I wanted the Google search result for 'Edward Breaking Headboard' but realized it had no revelance to my post. But, WTH*


Angela Brown said...

It's funny, as I was reading the first examples of grammatically-correct-yet-less-punchy lines, I was immediately thinking of ways to add action. What I thought of was very close to the punchier revisions provided.

Tara Tyler said...

i've always agreed with "was" is weak =)
it's ok to use sometimes, like in descriptions.
but for action and intensity and just keeping a scene moving along, stronger verbs work best.

mshatch said...

my first drafts are often more passively written, until I start revising. Then all those passive verbs stick out like an apple in an onion field.

tfwalsh said...

great blog and topic... reminds me to keep them as a minimum:)

Patsy said...

I find it easy to slip into passive voice - and really hard to see that I've done it. Must remember to look out for this when editing.

Huntress said...

I talk in double verbs.