Better Words

If you didn't already know: in writing, use strong verbs. A common amateur mistake is to toss adjectives and adverbs into a sentence to describe what the character is doing, but strong verbs are so much better. For example:


BADGOOD
“I want you to leave,” she said angrily.“Get out!” she shouted.
He jerkily got into his sporty little car.He stumbled into his Corvette.

Can you see the difference? If you can't, then trust me. The sentences on the right are much stronger because of the verbs "shouted" and "stumbled" (also because of the more self-explanatory dialogue and the more specific "Corvette").

I've found a thesaurus to be helpful for this, but not helpful enough. Instead, I keep three text files in my writing directory: said.txt, looked.txt, and walked.txt, filled with words to use instead of these common verbs. Today I'm sharing them online.

This is by no means comprehensive, and I welcome suggestions for addition. I'm sure most of you will enjoy suggesting, actually.

saidlookedwalked
barked
begged
bellowed
blared
bleated
blurted
cackled
chortled
coaxed
cooed
coughed
declared
demanded
echoed
exclaimed
expounded
gasped
goaded
groaned
hacked
haggled
harped
hissed
hooted
hummed
jabbered
jeered
jested
joked
moaned
mused
noted
panted
pleaded
pondered
posited
pronounced
protested
purred
queried
questioned
rasped
repeated
sang
screamed
shouted
sneered
sneezed
snickered
sniffed
soothed
spat
spewed
spumed
stammered
stated
stuttered
threatened
tried
trilled
trumpeted
uttered
waffled
wailed
wavered
whined
whimpered
whispered
worried
yelled
admired
analyzed
attended
beheld
considered
contemplated
examined
eyed
eyeballed
flashed
focused
gaped
gawked
gazed
glanced
glowered
goggled
heeded
inspected
lamped
marked
minded
noted
noticed
observed
ogled
peeked
peeped
peered
pored over
read
regarded
scanned
scouted
scrutinized
saw
spotted
spied
stared
studied
surveyed
tended
turned
viewed
watched
examined
advanced
ambled
ambulated
ankled
cantered
dove
filed
footed it
frolicked
went
hiked
hoofed it
locomoted
lumbered
lurched
marched
meandered
paced
padded
paraded
patroled
perambulated
pitter-pattered
plodded
pranced
promenaded
raced
roamed
roved
ran
sauntered
scuffed
shambled
shuffled
slogged
stalked
stepped
strided
strolled
strutted
stumbled
stumped
toddled
toured
traipsed
tramped
traversed
treaded
trekked
tromped
trooped
trudged
wandered

4 comments:

The Wannabe Scribe said...

Excellent advice. The only thing I would add to that is to use the said column sparingly. They say (dunno who said it, but apparently it's true) that the ‘he said/she said’ speech tags are largely invisible to the reader.

MattyDub said...

I agree with the Scribe - be very careful and deliberate with the "said" substitutions. Likewise, you can really go overboard with some of the other synonyms. Like "ambulate" - yes, you can use that word for "walk". But almost all of the time, you shouldn't. Unless you're writing The Book of the New Sun, or Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (or some other book where the elaborate style is integral to the book) the use of a word like "ambulate" will stick out and distract from the actual purpose of the text.
This is coming from a reader's, not a writer's, perspective. You know, 'cause I'm not a writer...

Carrien said...

How did I not know until now that you write?

And blog?

well cool.

Off to check the other one now :)

Adam Heine said...

Scribe & Matt: I agree about 'said'. Really, it's easy to overuse any of these. In general, the dialogue should speak for itself, but sometimes a strong tag makes it better. Everything in moderation.

Carrien: I didn't know you blogged either until a week or so ago. Then I find this blog with like years of archives (and you post a lot more often than I do!). So, fair enough, I guess.