Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Knowledge Tuesdays: V is for Verbs

Unless you’re French author Michel Thaler who published a 233 page novel 'Le Train de Nulle Part' without a single verb, you’ll need verbs in your writing.

Verbs are the action. It’s what we do to our characters that is important. We’re told to use active verbs instead of passive ones. Find stronger verbs instead of a weaker verb and adverb combo.

Besides your regular active verbs, verbs even have type and characteristics. Here are some: (bold = auxiliary verb; italic = lexical verb)
1. aspect (progressive): He is waiting for us.
2. aspect (perfect): Jill had fainted over spotting the blood.
3. passive voice: The ball was bounced into the house.
4. clause type (interrogative): How do I get to the library?
5. clause type (negative): Isn’t he going to move?

Then, there are tenses to verbs:
1. Imperative: Stop!
2. Subjunctive: If wishes were horses, I would have a field full of ponies.
3. “-ing” form, Gerund and Present Participle: The bird was flying when it pooped on the car.
4. “-ed” form: We had left together.

They even have mood.
1. Indicative mood: She will have a hangover tomorrow morning.
2. Imperative mood: Keep your eyes on the prize.
3. Subjunctive mood: I hope that you learn something you didn’t know about verbs in this knowledge Tuesdays.

I agree we should use active verbs, but I think sometimes as writers we limit ourselves if we take out all of the auxiliary verbs (to be, to have) particularly when it comes to the aspect of the verb (progressive and perfect). Even passive voice has a place. After all, if you’re focusing on the victim, it’s always better to say “Bob was murdered” than “Unknown subject murdered Bob” at least until you identified the killer. It is best to recognize the verbs, what they do, and see how we can write it better. 

Another V word stands for the Versatile Blogger award. Melissa Bradley offered me this award a week or so ago. Thank you, Melissa!


Angie said...

I seriously cannot imagine a novel without verbs. Weird! I certainly wouldn't want to read it. I love verbs!

Rachel Searles said...

No verbs? That's nuts! (sounds kinda boring...?) Oh, art.

You're the first person I've seen who's written about active verbs but also highlighted that there is in fact a time and place for the use of auxiliary verbs! Hooray! :)

M.J. Fifield said...

Someone actually wrote a novel without using a single verb? I kind of want to track it down and read it now just to experience that.

I like that you said that even passive voice has its place. I couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

That no verb thing is a joke, right? How's that even possible.

Congrats on the award.

Alleged Author said...

Passive vs. Active always amuses me. Sometimes, we lapse into Yoda speak without meaning to do it. Read you I will, hmmm?