Tag Archive - verbs

Masterful Verbs and Adjectives Part 2

Last week we looked at some of the creative usages of nouns, verbs, and adjectives by my favorite author Patricia A. McKillip. Masterful writing isn’t just about big-picture stuff, such as crafting strong scenes or riveting action. It drills down to the individual words, for these sole bits are the building blocks of our sentences, paragraphs, worlds.

As I mentioned, simple five-cent words can pack powerful punches and be much more effective than using a pouch full of five-dollar words, but there is something to be said for a common word used in a perhaps unusual way or context. That word snags us, adding dimension, color, and new perspective. It gives us pause, sparks our imagination, enriches the meaning of a sentence.

This week I’m going to share with you a few more passages from The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Robert Hansen. This novel, which is written to feel like a biography (and is practically one, since it’s a dramatization of the facts of James’s life), reveals a masterful use of words and phrasing, particularly in the verbs Hansen chooses.

Take a look at these passages and note these nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Consider how many writers would have opted for the dull, obvious words. But Hansen took time to come up with other, potent choices, and this elevates the writing from common to stellar. Continue Reading…

Masterful Uses of Verbs and Adjectives

One of the adages I learned from my whacky high school English teacher was this: use strong nouns and verbs.

Seems like a simple and even silly adage. But now that I’ve edited and critiqued thousands of manuscripts over the years, and have read thousands of good and bad novels, I have to say that this is one of the most profound bits of advice to writers I’ve ever heard.

I would also throw adjectives into the mix. Writers truly need to think carefully about these three components of sentence structure, for the thoughtful choices of nouns, verbs, and adjectives can make all the difference between so-so or even bad writing and masterful writing.

So I want to take a couple of posts to get into the little bits. Words and short phrases that pack powerful punches. I’d like to challenge you to work hard to come up with fresh, thought-provoking verbs and adjectives to help bring your descriptions to life in a unique way. Continue Reading…

Don’t Raise a Ruckus about Rise and Raise

Here’s a little grammar lesson. Some verbs are transitive. This means they take a direct object. Writers often run into confusion, for example, with lay and lie. Lay takes an object (I lay the book on the table), so it’s a transitive verb. But lie (as in lie down, or telling a fib) is an intransitive verb. It does not take a object. You lie down. You don’t “lie” something down.

Okay, got it?

Now, think about the words raise and rise. The basic distinction is that raise is transitive.

  • I raise my hand when I want to be called on.
  • He raised the flag when they blew the trumpet.

Easy, right? Got that transitive thing down now? Good. So what about rise? Rise is an intransitive verb, and now you know what that means. Continue Reading…

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