Sunday, August 5, 2018

Verbless in Montreal

On a recent vacation, surrounded by French, I recovered bits of the language I’d considered lost forever. Amidst my gratified astonishment, I realized I could translate tons of nouns. Hardly any verbs. 

I pondered this. How do nouns and verbs influence perception of the world? And then, of course, how do parts of speech control the journey of readers through a novel’s world? 

People adore verbs. Stephen Fry claims that “We are not nouns, we are verbs.” Look up quotes on verbs and you’ll discover a lengthy list of nouns people transform into verbs: mother, paintings, NY, jazz, honesty, art, help, love, marriage, spirituality, and a whole lot more. 

What’s behind this? Appreciation of the dynamic, or—action.  Because most of us learned this definition back in elementary school, it seems elementary. It’s anything but.

Tip: Verbs move people and things, and who wants a static world? Give readers verbs.

~ Verbs capture.
Ramon cooed at the infanta.
~ Verbs insinuate.
The knife grazed Esmeralda’s elbow.
~ Verbs capture time.
Prudence will remember that storm forever.
~ Verbs illuminate.
“She longed for cutlasses, pistols, and brandy; she had to make do with coffee, and pencils, and verbs.”  — Philip Pullman
~ Verbs distill.
“Can one invent verbs? I want to tell you one: I sky you, so my wings extend so large to love you without measure.” — Frida Kahlo
~ Verbs expose.
Mirabelle eyed him from under her lashes. 
~ Verbs capitulate. 
You win.
As Michel Thomas put it,  “If you know how to handle the verbs, you know how to handle the language. Everything else is just vocabulary.” So if you’re struggling with a language, grasp whatever you can get. But unless you want readers struggling (or disappearing), verbs triumph. Find them. Use them.

**** Laurel's new book, Beyond the First Draft, is now available from Amazon or Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing. **** 

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