Today I’m back to Texas after a fast paced few days at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. It was a wonderful experience and very informative. One of the sessions I attended was presented by Constance Hall (I will link to her information in a moment). The session was titled “Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch: How to Let Verbs Power Your Writing”.
Here are a few quick notes that I took, plus information on how to learn more from Constance, herself. BTW, that title is the name of her book on the subject too. She’s a fabulous and energetic presenter. If you get an opportunity to see her speak, I would highly encourage it.
A sentence is basically two parts, right? A subject and a predicate. Think of the subject as the “what” or “protagonist” of the sentence. The predicate becomes the “so what?” or “predicament” of the sentence. The verb expresses the predicate, right?
When Constance was an editor, if a writer used a lot of “is”, “was”, and “seems” in their writing–she skipped them. Why? Because she didn’t feel they had a good command of the language and an exciting use of verbs that made their writing interesting.
In her talk, she asked us to think of all the various words that could be used instead of “walk”. How many can you come up with? If you get more than ten, you’re doing great. Most people can think of seven or eight.
Examples: saunter, shuffle, tip-toe, patter, clip-clop, trudge, skip, swagger, stride, amble, wander, waddle, canter, carouse, cruise, bop, speed, step, etc. Aren’t these words great? Not only do they portray the action, but you automatically KNOW how it is performed.
John didn’t stride confidently into the room–he swaggered! Or maybe he sauntered.
Ann didn’t slowly walk across the dance floor, waiting to be asked. No, she trudged–or perhaps shuffled?
A favorite of mine is “clip-clopped”. No, I don’t mean as in a horse (smile). I use this when a woman in high heels is walking on tile or wood floors. It not only gives the action, but the sound too. You can almost hear the clack of the heels as she moves. In fact, maybe “clickety-clacked” would work too?
Constance encouraged the authors to use verbs that not only describe the action but expressed the personality of the protagonist in the sentence. In other words, Shelly didn’t just speak, she quaked or grumbled, maybe even coughed out her words.
How well an author uses verbs in their writing shows their grasp for description, which portrays a wonderful command of the language.
This was a very brief post (I don’t tend to be very long-winded). If you’d like to really learn more, here’s a link to her book on Amazon:
And a link to her bio:
Now, here’s a question for you…how many verbs do you know that better portray the word “speak”?