Thursday, July 16, 2015

First Verbs

I'm over at From the Write Angle today talking about verbs and their power in the querying process.

Verbs are equally powerful in our stories. We did exactly 2 creative writing activities when I was in school. Both of these Grade 6 assignments without any teaching about what worked and didn't work in fiction. (Yes, that means I did exactly 0 creative writing in school from kindergarten until my final year of university.)

We did diagram far too many sentences, so I least I knew my parts of speech. And I knew what nouns and verbs were. I also knew that all the sentences we diagrammed were chock full of adverbs and adjectives (the better to diagram with, my dear). Therefore, my 2 assignments were equally full of adverbs and adjectives.

Which meant weak verbs.


Anyway, over at From the Write Angle, I've included the first few verbs of the query I used several years ago (haven't queried since, still working on improving the craft!).

Thought I'd try the same here, using the story I'm currently revising. First few verbs:


(Past tense verbs sound odd when strung together!)
Putting the list together makes me think I need another round of revising/editing here. While the verbs aren't bad, they don't give a great sense of the story. Hmmm, off to do some thinking!

What about you? Willing to share your first couple of verbs?


  1. I've no idea what QUAILED is, must look it up in my dictionary :)

  2. Putting those verbs together as a sentence makes me very curious about your story. :) Verbs are powerful.

  3. Jemi! Been a while!

    Funny, your school experience sounds a lot like mine here below the 45th parallel. Our sixth grade was ALL creative writing (well, a lot, anyway), but I don't remember anything after that, except maybe 'finish this story' or 'write an alternate ending for this story'.

    I don't know if the verbs alone really CAN give a great sense of the story--anything out of context is going to be strange. Heading over to FtWA; be well!

  4. Dezzy - you're making me rethink my use of the word! :P

    Mason - thanks! I'm glad to hear it :)

    Jeff - so true - context is SO important - but it's a fun thing to check :)

    RR - thanks!

  5. Powerful verbs are important. It's hard getting rid of ones like is, was, to be, that we use all the time.

  6. I'm headed over right now. I don't think too much about verbs, but I try not to repeat myself and I like to pick powerful ones.

  7. We did some creative writing in elementary and high schools, but like you I had none in university. Strong verbs really carry the day, don't they? It's always hard to believe the difference in a sentence with boring vs. exciting verbs.

  8. Natalie - it's sometimes even hard to notice them!

    Medeia - thanks - I like those 'good' ones, too :)

    Beth - it really is amazing! I have fun with my students changing them up :)

  9. Hey Jemi!

    How's it goin', eh? :)

    I'm into action words. Past tense verbs gets me onto the subject of tense, which I try not to get tense over. Then again, surreal thinking might make me ramble like this. I've been thinking about going camping. I like to have plenty of tents. I thought about the tents I once had. I looked at the tents I now have. Indeed, I thought about the tents I want to buy. In other words: past, present and future tents. Yeah, I know 'Nomads' are 'in tents' lovers. Did all this talk of 'tents' make you 'tense'?

    Sorry, did I go off track? Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Jemi.

    Gary :)

  10. Great post at The Write Angle...thanks Jemi!

  11. Gary - just a little off track! But we do have tents you can borrow if it helps with the tension :)

    NRB - thanks! :)

  12. Interesting exercise. For what it's worth, I think you're right; good fiction writing, when distilled to its essence, is action. And it seems we can discern something of your story! I'd imagine someone encounters a person/thing they thought was good, and then things go south fast. Am I at all close?

  13. Good idea to pay attention to those verbs. They can make or break the prose.

  14. Ethan - you are pretty close! Nice work :)

    Lee - they really can!

  15. Great post at From the Write Angle.

  16. heading over to the link...

  17. My first 10 verbs of my current work:

    (I wonder if I did this right) hmmm... interesting.

  18. Thanks Olivia :)

    Thanks Agnes :)

    Carolyn - sounds like you're doing it exactly right!!

  19. Something more for me to think about. I do love strong verbs- and tend to use too many adjectives (I love them for some reason). ;) An interesting exercise that I have written myself a note to look up in my WIP. Thanks!

  20. Jess- I love those strong verbs too! Hope it helps out a bit!