Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Action? Verbs Needed!

When I photograph my family, my perpetual favorites are action shots. Here are a few choice ones from a trip to the eastern shore of Lake Michigan last summer.

I treasure them because they show what we did, not just where we went. But many times when I write, an apt action word escapes just when I need it as a best friend.

When I read, on the other hand, I marvel at the impressive and flawless word choices of other writers. And I scrunch up my jealous face because it appears effortless. It's not effortless, but the flowing so fluidly that it seems to be, that's what I'm chasing.

Last week I vowed to pocket pen and paper when I read. My oath: jot down riveting verbs. Verbs and their jolt caffeinate writing. So now I harbor a verb list. Small sampling of verbs I've collected: fume, jostle, anchor, flick, waft, rattle, swagger. When I'm writing, the list lies beside my computer, so if my mind numbs or freezes over, I glance at my verbs, find one that's just right, insert it, smile, and proceed writing.

Floating and cramming verbs through my brain transports them into my writing. What writing tricks have you discovered for finding words that are just right?


  1. Fun pics! And a great idea to have a verb list. I do verb-searches in cookbooks when I'm feeling verb-impaired. Though there is the obvious drawback to that method...

  2. That is a great idea, carrying pen and paper to capture likely verbs. I might have to try it myself! I have no particular method, just aimlessly cast about until I find it. If I can't, I often use a slightly lamer verb and just tag it with a comment in the manuscript. Usually I find that the right word comes to me a few pages later, when I'm not thinking so hard about it. The subconscious keeps turning it over and over until the right word pops up.

  3. Such fun pics!! I think this is a great idea for writing verbs down! I'm doing it. Thanks for the idea! Fume is a good one. I forgot about fume. I'm going to add waggle (as in shaking a finger at someone) and waddle (as in walking).

  4. Anne, with verbs running in my brain, even my conversation is different. Cookbooks - yes, dangerous.

    Meagan, that's a good method, tagging it and returning with the right word.

    Rebecca, I CAN'T believe how long my list is after six days. Words I knew before but just not ones that flow without calling them out somehow!

  5. This is very interesting. Usually I search and make a list, instead of coming up with my own. But I like your way of doing it and will probably try it when I get the chance.

  6. I like how you posted the pictures--you're right, people standing still in a photo, even if they look nice, is dull compared to jumping!
    The other day I was driving and thought of how I hadn't read this post yet, but I wanted to, and the word "flounce" popped into my head. Funny!

  7. I almost hate to admit it, but the thesaurus is my best friend. Sometimes I get stuck using the same word, when I don't want to, or the right one is on the tip of my tongue, but I just can't call it up. So when that happens, the thesaurus is the right tool. It's not a substitute for a good vocabulary, but in some cases it works wonders.

  8. Akoss, as I stated up there [pointing], I even speak differently when focused on verbs.

    Kristen, glad I inspired you! And Oooo! Flounce wasn't on my list yet.

    Lisa, besides my verb list, I have an online thesaurus open when I'm writing. I'm thrilled it's not just me!

  9. I recently read a book written by a South African author. So many words that I had never even heard of! Words that I had heard of but had never considered using! Words that were beautiful and so spot-on. So I would recommend reading books from other countries.

  10. Helen, thank you for stopping by! That is an excellent suggestion.


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