The Proverbial Verb
Fran Cook, Publishing Assistant
“When in doubt, strike it out,” Mark Twain so wisely stated. This famous quote, once mastered, can turn your writing upside down—as Diana Ross declared—and all around. Jerry Jenkin’s incredible verb list can boost your manuscript fervor from good to stellar, from palatable to delicious, ensuing your readers to crave more.
Replace those “ing” words like “is going” and “am wanting” to “leaving” and “desire.” A simple replacement, with a verb that has its own muscle speaks to the reader’s eyes and ears. Yes, readers use three senses actually, when they read: hearing, seeing and feeling. They eye sees the text, converts it to meaning and creates a voice that speaks to the reader. That voice, whether shocked, petrified, supercharged or revitalized creates the emotion, sometimes adrenaline that captivates and ushers in the reader until their spouse demands they put your book down; after all the family needs to eat you know.
When do you strike out the one or two plain verbs for the dynamic action verbs? When reading your own thriller manuscript replaces your valium prescription within 3 minutes of consumption, Houston, we have a problem. It’s time to revert to the proverbial verb list—okay, did I mention to avoid redundancy? If authors add adverbs to take up space and describe verbs that don’t need describing, then either redundancy, confusion or boredom may occur.
If a verb can’t stand alone or shouldn’t stand alone because the mental picture could go either way, then expound with an adverb. Forgive me for this very ridiculously obvious example, “The car hurriedly raced down the freeway.” I don’t know of any other way to race down the highway, except in high gear, in a hurry. Strikeout “hurriedly” in a hurry; please!
When in doubt, strike it out and dig deep for those meaningful verbs with a punch!