By C.L. Phillips
Five verbs. Fast. Top of Mind. Quickly. Five More. Don't you dare use any form of "to be", do you hear me? (This is where you scream at the top of your lungs, YES, Sergeant Wordslayer.) Good.
That wasn't too tough was it? Now, pull out your current work in progress. Today, we're going to Whip that WIP in shape with a little Sniper Verb Training. Grab a chapter or ten pages. Get out your pencil. Quickly now, go through the pages and circle all the verbs. VERBS ONLY LADIES and GENTLEMEN.
Don't make me wait, get going.
Ok, that was the easy part. Now, go back and put a square box around all the ANDs, ands, and ands. You get my point right?
Now, I want you to reach inside your brain and pet that tiny little ego of yours. Remind yourself that only the truly gifted novelists are willing to slay their own words. Repeat after me, "I'm special. I'm a great writer except when I choose weak, sniveling, spineless verbs." Set fire to a recipe card or something. It's time for war.
Rewrite every sentence with circles and squares. That's right. None of this "He looked at his watch and reached for the phone." Or, "He turned to his left and grabbed the box of Cheerios and sat down at the breakfast table."
Why are we SNIPER KILLING these sentences? Because in most cases you are saying what you see, as if it were in a movie. Not what you mean. Not what builds tension. Unless you are using AND to separate a list of nouns, you must seriously consider how "and" neuters tension in your sentence.
Do you agree? You can argue with Sargeant Wordslayer...but beware, if you are wrong, you will have to submit a list of twenty five totally awesome verbs, which you will subsequently inject into your WIP.
C.L Phillips writes mystery novels while nestled under a hundred-year live oak tree in downtown Austin. Except in August. C.L writes about the the gap between what people want and what they actually do. Broccoli or chocolate chip cookies, anyone? Check out her web site: http://www.clphillips.com/ or find her onTwitter: @clphillips787