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Let the Fat Lady Clump

Let the Fat Lady Clump

Your viewpoint character finds herself passing through a park. Does she walk or hobble? Does she run or scuttle? Does she bustle down the path like a TV compere?  Or does she slump along as if she’s carrying a bag of potatoes on her back?  Some of these images are vivid enough to create a picture in your mind and that's exactly what you want your reader to do. Don't waste words on dull, every-day verbs like ‘walk' or ‘run'. They'll pass your reader by without leaving a single impression.

Try this:

Highlight all the ‘moving' verbs in your latest piece and examine each one for impact. Do they create a strong image? Do they reveal something extra about your character or the setting?

Let's say you've written, ‘Belinda walked through the park'. What does this tell us about Belinda? Zilch. And the park? Not a thing. Is Belinda being chased by a gang of zombies? Then instead of walking, she might barrel or barge or zigzag. If your tone is light-hearted, she might rocket, whiz or zip or zoom. Maybe Belinda's in the park to fill in time between appointments and she doesn't have a care in the world.  In that case she might amble, cruise, dawdle, mooch, saunter, shamble, stroll or just plain wander through the park.

You see? You can share stacks of information about your character simply by choosing a vivid verb.

But wait, there's more! You can also bring setting to life with the help of a verb. Is the park crowded? Then Belinda might be forced to steamroll her way through or barge past people. Perhaps it's been raining. Then she might splash or squelch or even squidge on the wet grass. That's right, you can even make up your own verb.

What's Belinda's wearing? Your verb can help here too. In a gossamer fairy dress, Belinda might rustle or swish, in dress-up shoes she might clatter on the loose stones and in boots she might pound or clump along the path.

Strong, vivid verbs expressing movement give you a GREAT opportunity to enliven your story. Don't waste it on walk.

© Jill McDougall 2007
Jill has written over ninety books for children. You can find more writing tips at http://www.jillmcdougall.com.au
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