Wordsmith Wednesday–A Love Affair with Words


I’m in love with verbs. Properly chosen, a verb can replace adjectives and add life to your manuscript. Here’s a suggestion for editing: Do a word search for boring, passive verbs–variations of to be, to have–you get the idea. Evaluate adjectives and adverbs. Is there a verb that will better create the desired effect and inject a shot of life into your work?

I’ll give you an example from “Winter is Past.” Claire, my protagonist, is with her donor, Kathryn, who’s receiving dialysis. I could have written:

I had memories of dialysis when I sat in a chair and chemicals cleaned my blood. There were lots of unpleasant side effects. I was waiting for a cadaver transplant.

While that sums up the scene, do you really have a sense of what Claire experienced? Here’s what I wrote, instead:

A flashback swamped me and I broke out in a sweat. Memories of hours bound to a recliner poured in: claret red blood cycling in and out of my body; chemicals dispensed by a machine that beeped and groaned; nausea, weakness, restless legs and insomnia; the thought that someone would have to die in order that I might live.

Now, let me show you how verb choices can enrich a poem:

Textures

About five-thirty

the morning of Friday before

day-light-saving-time,

light spills through blinds,

pools into discrete

silver puddles

at the foot of my bed.

Through the half-moon window

near the ceiling,

swatches of gray satin

unfurl across the sky.

Tears in the fabric

allow slices of blue to

peek through,

toss hope in my face.

In that shadowy space between

asleep and awake

ideas pelt my brain

so I can’t escape back into

my dream about the circus

where I rode barefoot,

standing on the rough coat

of a white mare.

I slip into awareness.

Cold smooth wood

greets my feet as I stand

and yawn.

My dog

shakes her silky fur, glares at

me for interrupting her dreams.

We stretch, enter the day,

touch life.

Writer beware. Don’t force it. If it’s stilted your writing will become cumbersome. He said, she said works fine most of the time. You don’t want to distract the reader’s by using words like retorted, exclaimed, insisted. Take a look at a scene or a poem with an eye for variations of verbs like to be, to have, to go and ask yourself if you have other choices that will liven up your writing.

(Note: this post is adapted from a previous post 3/10/10–but back then, nobody was reading my blog!)

4 thoughts on “Wordsmith Wednesday–A Love Affair with Words

  1. Jamie Dedes says:

    Well done. Bravo! Good reminders all. Thanks so much, Victoria. … I like the poem.

    I’m glad you are getting readers now. I your audience will grow …

    Warmest regards –

    Like

  2. buttercup600 says:

    I just love this post, my first language’s not English but I am in love with it…I eat, sleep breath with a Dictionary or Thesaurus beside me!! Thank you for this my friend xxx Big hugs xx

    Like

  3. souldipper says:

    Yes, yes, yes. Thank you!

    Like

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