Dances With Verbs

by Susan Boltz

For years, I hated my writing because I didn’t like how my words sounded when I read them aloud. I searched for my voice and yearned for my writing to sparkle with my point glowing in neon. But people reading my stuff inserted their own perceptions and usually missed the point I tried to make.

I made some writing friends, and we formed critique groups. (St. Davids is an excellent place to find each otheDances With Verbsr.) They have lifted my writing to a higher level. In fiction writing, if I use am, is, are, was, were, be, been–I will endure criticism. They chide me, “Show; not tell.” The passive verbs work in dialogue and non-fiction but strangle a story as they pull the reader out of the action.

One of my writer buddies even gives the props in his stories some characterization with verbs. Tea-kettles scream, brownies beg to be eaten and cars beckon his characters to drive them. When I read what others write, my writing is challenged and pushed to new limits. If my critique group reads and praises something I’ve written, it makes my week.

As I work on a story, I dance with the verbs. I’m obsessed with them. Should my character stomp, tromp, or clomp out of the room? Should the water in a bathroom rush, gush or flush? If the water is only running, I need to change this by the second draft.

Verbs arabesque and pirouette around in my mind. With a pen stuck between my teeth, they tango across my brain. Last night, I discovered them hip-hopping through my subconscious during a dream.

You don’t want to be at the verb dance all by yourself.

Dear Reader, I waltzed you across the dance floor to whisper the truth in your ear. You need other writers. Fresh eyes and ears have the perspective to help you discover your writing strengths and weaknesses. Also, you want a group to tell you when it’s time to sit this one out, so you are not carried off by the verbs.

 

Susan Boltz: retired medical lab technician & basic logic assistant.  She and Bob said “I do” forty years ago and have one son.  Stays young by teaching high school students on Sundays.  Writing, hiking and baking cookies for Kairos prison ministry keep her busy.  Published in the Upper Room, Vista Magazine, andPenned from the Heart.  On December 16th, her personal story, “From Revenge to Peace” will appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Power of Forgiveness.

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