Monday, October 31, 2011

The Sound of Verb

"What did you say to him?" Lightning forked from a black cloud and sizzled across the sky. Shannon doubled over and smashed her hands against her ears. Seconds later, the ground rumbled with the howl of thunder. Kent threw his body over hers, forming a heavy, protective shell. "I haven't talked to Mason since Sunday, Shannon, I swear." He pushed her toward the door. "Get inside."

"Then why did he leave me?"

"He wouldn't do that."

"Well, he did." Wrestling from his grip, she spun toward the car. Another explosion crackled through the sky. She dropped to the ground. Bits of concrete dug into her hands and knees. "Oh, God, oh, God, help me."

Did you hear that? The noise you heard wasn't lightning splitting atmosphere or the sharp crack of thunder. That, dear reader, was the sound of verbs.

Writing instructors pound into us the need for good strong verbs. A word that does more than just "express an act, occurrence, or mode of being..."* A word that, in the split second it takes to read it, conveys action and emotion. One that paints a picture. Verbs that aren't a form of "to be". 

And, I finally figure out, words that create a nice, sharp sound.

Read the excerpt above again, and listen to the sound created by the verbs:


Did you hear it? The sound is created by hard, double, or triple consonants. The reader hears it as well as they immerse themselves in the story, though they're not aware of it.

There are times when a writer has to use a softer sound. A reflective moment. A tender moment. A moment of grief. That doesn't mean the author has to use weak verbs, just verbs that consist of softer consonants: reach, pat, kiss and more.

So when you're writing a scene, listen to the sound of your verbs. If they whine, sharpen them. If they sound tired from overuse, you may need something new. Here's a link to Deanna Carlyle's famous list of verbs:

A symphony of words.


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