Tag Archives: verbs and nouns

Verbs and the Nouns that Love Them part 2 #amwriting

Verbs are the engine words of our prose. They show the action, but like all words, they have shades of mood, nuances that color the tone of my paragraphs. Verbs can either push the action outward from their partner nouns or pull it in.

Verbs there is no tryWhen I write poetry, I look for words that contrast vividly against each other. I choose action words that begin with hard consonants, emotion words that begin with softer sounds.

If I can do this for poetry, I should be able to do this for narrative prose – but alas. For some reason, my poetic brain goes on vacation when I am trying to write a first draft. My work is filled with a bald telling of events.

But that’s okay. All I need at that point is to get the story written down.

But during revisions, when writing really becomes work, and I’m trying to turn that boring mess into something worth reading – that is when I need to use my words. Finding strong verbs and employing contrasts in my word choices becomes essential when embarking on the second draft.

I know that power verbs push action outward from a character. Other word choices pull the action inward, and contrasting the two creates a feeling of opposition and friction. This contrast of opposites injects dynamism into a passage, a sense of vitality, vigor, and energy.

Readers are attracted to dynamic prose.

Note to self: write dynamic prose.

Verbs that push the action outward from a character make them appear authoritative, competent, energetic, and decisive.

Verbs that pull the action in toward the character make them appear receptive, attentive, private, and flexible.

I want to make my characters well-rounded but not quite perfect. I hope they are relatable and human. The way I show their world and their place in it must convey who they are.

opposites work togetherConcise writing is difficult for me because I love descriptors. So, I have to make my action words set the mood. To do that, I must use contrasts.

  • Brood
  • Deny
  • Embrace
  • Escape
  • Consent
  • Refuse
  • Agony
  • Ecstasy

A part of my life was burned away. I was destroyed, but now I was reborn in ways I’d never foreseen.

My action words are burn, destroy, and birth. This character’s entire arc is encapsulated in those three words. The contrasting words I choose throughout their story will make or break that novel.

Can I do it? I don’t know, but I’ll have fun trying. In the beginning, this character’s verbs will be darker, their actions more inward and brooding.

At the end of the story, events and interactions will alter them despite their desire to remain safely static. They will experience a renaissance, a flowering of the spirit.

But verbs and nouns by themselves don’t make engaging prose. They need modifiers and connectors.

I will have to select modifiers and connecting verbs to enhance contrasts. Since I can’t go wild with them, the few I choose must be power words.

Many power words begin with hard consonants. The images they convey project a feeling of power:

  • Backlash
  • Beating
  • Beware
  • Blinded
  • Blood
  • Bloodbath
  • Bloodcurdling
  • Bloody
  • Blunder

When things get tricky and the characters are working their way through a problem, verbs like stumble and blunder offer a sense of chaos and don’t require a lot of modifiers to show the atmosphere. When you incorporate any of the above “B” words into your prose, you are posting a road sign for the reader, a notice that ahead lies danger.

Here are some words to create an atmosphere of anxiety – words that push the action outward:

  • Agony (noun)
  • Apocalypse (noun)
  • Armageddon (noun)
  • Assault (verb)
  • Backlash (noun)
  • Pale (modifier)
  • Panic (verb or noun)
  • Target (verb)
  • Teeter (verb)
  • Terrorize (verb)

Here are some words that draw us in:

  • Delirious (intransitive verb)
  • Depraved (modifier)
  • Desire (verb)
  • Dirty (modifier)
  • Divine (modifier)
  • Ecstatic (intransitive verb)
  • Embrace (verb)
  • Enchant (verb)
  • Engage (verb)
  • Entice (verb)
  • Enthrall (verb)

Writing is an adventure, and I learn something new every day. Some days I like what I write; other days, not so much.

john barrymore memeThe drive to understand why some books enthrall me and others leave me cold keeps me reading and looking for new stories.

Life can be a bumpy road.

The key is to focus on the good things and laugh at the inconveniences. Make a little time to do something creative, and always make time for the people you love.

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Verbs and the Nouns that love them #amwriting

This week we are continuing the discussion of verbs and how they shape the narrative. Last week I mentioned that I use verbs when creating a character, seeking out the action words each character embodies. Those words illuminate the gut reactions of each character and how they will act and react in each situation.

Verbs there is no tryNow that I have identified who most of my characters are, I am designing the structure of the plot. I need to use actions and events to show the story, but I also must bring out the backstory for my two MCs. I have to shed light on the friction and the attraction and force them together in situations they don’t want to be in. I also have to show them as individuals, independent of each other. As I work on the plot, the verbs that each character embodies will come to me.

Sentences are a marriage of words. A noun is one partner, and the verb is the other. The union of noun and verb will produce offspring—sentences. Modifiers are the in-laws, necessary but meddlesome. They often try to take over and guide the children against the parents’ wishes.

So, to minimize the damage done by intrusive modifiers, we rely on strong verbs and allow the modifiers to have their say only when necessary.

So why are verbs so crucial in shaping the tone and atmosphere of a narrative?

Think about this sentence: Nelson walked away.

We have three words indicating someone has departed, but they don’t show his mood.

Nelson is a person (noun). He performs an action (verb).

That action affects both Nelson and his objective: leaving. Away is an adverb (modifier) denoting distance from a particular person, place, or thing. It modifies the verb, giving Nelson a direction in which to go.

WalkWe can write it several different ways still using only three words, and all of them would indicate that Nelson has left the scene. Each time we substitute a synonym for the word walked, we change the atmosphere of that scene.

Nelson sauntered away. (He departed in a carefree, leisurely manner.)

Nelson strode away. (He walked decisively in a particular direction.)

Nelson stomped away. (Nelson left the scene in a bad mood.)

Nelson ambled away. (He walked slowly.)

Nelson slogged away. (He departed but had to work at it.)

Nelson slipped away. (Nelson departed, but sneakily.)

This is why it’s so important to have a good thesaurus on hand—I want my words to say what I envision. If I choose the correct verbs, my sentences will express my ideas with fewer modifiers.

Many verbs cannot impact a character or object directly. These are called intransitive verbs. They are just as important as transitive verbs because they show a mood or condition, a state of being, or a reflex (instinctive response).

Consider the word “mope.” Mope is an intransitive verb that means dejected and apathetic. It’s an action word that is going nowhere.

Nelson moped. (He was dejected and apathetic.)

We can have our character in a bad mood, but with many nuances that might say what we mean in a more particular way.

Nelson pouted. (He was whiney.)

Nelson languished. (He did nothing and stagnated.)

Nelson sulked. (He was angry and self-pitying.)

Nelson fretted. (He was in a neurotic mood.)

Some intransitive verbs in the family of “mope” are more robust and carry greater force:

Nelson brooded. (He was in a dark mood, obsessing.)

Nelson agonized. (He couldn’t stop thinking about it, suffering.)

When we add a strong intransitive verb to a powerful transitive verb, we have action and mood:

Nelson strode away, brooding. (He left the scene, and someone will suffer.)

transitive verb damon suede quoteThe above examples are basic, a bald telling of actions and moods. They are the core of the paragraph, the central idea. When we strip away the surrounding words, we can see how the variations of a primary verb can change the reader’s perception of an action scene.

Every year, I write the first draft of a novel in November, starting the actual writing on November 1st.

I always begin with an idea for a plot. Usually, I can’t actually visualize how it works until I see who the protagonists are. So, I jot down the premise and start from there. I choose to create a plot with my cast of characters having their primary characteristics in place.

I hope the conflicts and roadblocks will appear to arise organically as if that is what would happen to those people. Up to the end, my MCs must feel uncertain about the outcome. They must fear that failure looms but can’t give up. They must have a well of determination to draw upon.

I must do a certain amount of prep work if I hope to have a coherent plot and believable situations on November 1st. I do this gradually, working on it whenever I’m at a standstill on the current work in progress.

Everyone has hiccups in life, things that take over temporarily and make creative thinking a bit tough. But my work moves ahead because I can always do the technical stuff like plotting and worldbuilding, even when I can’t figure out how to say what I mean.

Previous posts on this subject:

Verbs and Character Creation

Books I own and recommend for further research:

conflict thesaurusThe Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Volume 1) (Writers Helping Writers Series Book 8) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

activateActivate: a thesaurus of actions & tactics for dynamic genre fiction by Damon Suede.


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Character creation: attraction and repulsion #amwriting

This week we’re continuing our dive into character building. I’m putting my beta reader’s comments to work, trying to iron out some of the rough patches, and one that I must work on is attraction.

WritingCraftSeries_romanceWriting emotions with depth is a balancing act. This is where I write from real life. I think about the physical cues I see when my friends and family feel emotion. When someone is happy, what do you see? Bright eyes, laughter, and smiles.

And when we’re happy, how do we feel? Energized, confident. We’re always slightly giddy when we have a little crush coming on and even happier when it blossoms into a romance.

The trick is to combine the surface of the emotion (physical) with the deeper aspect of the feeling (internal). Not only that, but we want to write it so that we aren’t telling the reader what to experience. We allow the reader to experience the emotion as if it is their idea.

Fantasy is a popular genre because it involves people. People are creatures of biology and emotion. When you throw them together in close quarters, romances can happen within the narrative.

I’m not a Romance writer. I write about relationships, but Romance readers will be disappointed in my work. My tales don’t always have a happily ever after, although most do. Also, while I can be graphic, I’m usually a fade-to-black kind of writer, allowing my characters a little privacy.

I flounder when writing without an outline, and even though I’m in the second draft, I’m floundering now.

Writing intense, heartfelt emotions is easy for me. I begin to have trouble when I attempt to write the subtler nuances of attraction and its opposite, repulsion. I find myself at a loss for words.

The problem is, if you write intense emotions with no buildup, they come out of nowhere and seem gratuitous.

So, how do I foreshadow these relationships and show the buildup? I go to Romance writers and ask questions. I’ve attended workshops given by romance writers and learned a great deal from them. However, being autistic, I understand more from pursuing independent study.

Verbalize_Damon_SuedeAlso, I’m a book junkie—I can’t pass up buying any book on the craft of writing. I bought two books on writing craft by Damon Suede, who writes Romance. These two books show how word choices can make or break the narrative.

In his book Verbalize, he explains how actions make other events possible. Even gentler, softer emotions must have verbs to set them in motion.

Emotions are nouns, and so I need to find and use the right verbs to activate them.

Therefore, matching nouns with verbs is key to bringing that romance to life. I must get out the dictionary of synonyms and antonyms and delve into the many words that relate to and describe attraction. ATTRACTION Synonyms: 33 Synonyms & Antonyms for ATTRACTION | Thesaurus.com

So, now that I have all these lovely words, the next step is to choose the words that say what I mean and fit them into the narrative.

This novel was accidental, so I didn’t plan the relationships out the way I usually do. I have five people in this convoluted tale. I’m a bookkeeper, so doing the math, if we end up with two couples, one character will be left out.

Now my beta readers tell me that while the final matches work, I need to hint at sexual tension from the opening pages on to better show the attraction.

Also, they pointed out that the odd-one-out creates endless opportunities for a real roadblock to the final event. This is something I hadn’t seen, but wow–what a great way to inject some power into the finale.

poetry-in-prose-word-cloud-4209005Each of us experiences emotional highs and lows in our daily lives. We have deep-rooted, personal reasons for our emotions, for whether we are attracted to or repulsed by another person. Sometimes those interactions can be highly charged.

Both the protagonist and the antagonist must have legitimate reasons for their actions and reactions. There must be a history of some sort. Failing that, there must be an instinctive attraction/rejection.

Our characters must have credible responses that a reader can empathize with, and there must be consequences.

For me, this is where writing becomes work.


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