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EBraten

Challenge: Avoid Using Thought Verbs

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Somebody in one of my Facebook groups shared this article. It takes show vs. tell to a whole new level.

 

Quote

 

In six seconds, you’ll hate me.
 

But in six months, you’ll be a better writer.


From this point forward – at least for the next half year – you may not use “thought” verbs.  These include:  Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use. 


The list should also include:  Loves and Hates.


And it should include:  Is and Has, but we’ll get to those, later.


Until some time around Christmas, you can’t write:  Kenny wondered if Monica didn’t like him going out at night…”

 

Instead, you’ll have to Un-pack that to something like:  “The mornings after Kenny had stayed out, beyond the last bus, until he’d had to bum a ride or pay for a cab and got home to find Monica faking sleep, faking because she never slept that quiet, those mornings, she’d only put her own cup of coffee in the microwave.  Never his.”


Instead of characters knowing anything, you must now present the details that allow the reader to know them.  Instead of a character wanting something, you must now describe the thing so that the reader wants it.


Instead of saying:  “Adam knew Gwen liked him.”


You’ll have to say:  “Between classes, Gwen was always leaned on his locker when he’d go to open it.  She’d roll her eyes and shove off with one foot, leaving a black-heel mark on the painted metal, but she also left the smell of her perfume.  The combination lock would still be warm from her ass.  And the next break, Gwen would be leaned there, again.”
 

In short, no more short-cuts.  Only specific sensory detail: action, smell, taste, sound, and feeling.


Typically, writers use these “thought” verbs at the beginning of a paragraph  (In this form, you can call them “Thesis Statements” and I’ll rail against those, later)  In a way, they state the intention of the paragraph.  And what follows, illustrates them.


For example:


“Brenda knew she’d never make the deadline.  Traffic was backed up from the bridge, past the first eight or nine exits.  Her cell phone battery was dead.  At home, the dogs would need to go out, or there would be a mess to clean up.  Plus, she’d promised to water the plants for her neighbor…”
 

Do you see how the opening “thesis statement” steals the thunder of what follows?  Don’t do it.

 

Lots more after this excerpt. Read the full article!

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This is basically show, don't tell.

 

10 minutes ago, EBraten said:

In six seconds, you’ll hate me.

 

Took me a little longer, ten seconds. ;)

 

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1 hour ago, robg213 said:

I would also avoid the use of the word "ass."

Unless of course you're writing about the animal from the Bible. :D

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1 hour ago, robg213 said:

I would also avoid the use of the word "ass."

The way it was used in the article was CREEPY. Proof that there's such a thing as too much "show".

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This place is for Christian writers and we need to have a set of standards. The standards of the world should not apply. There is a tendency to use vulgar words for certain body parts and bodily functions. Christian writers should avoid using vulgar terms for body parts.

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Whenever I read one of these 'show, don't tell' articles, I think of all the great storytellers I like to read and how I hate the sort of Deep Third-Person that drones on for page after page causing story bloat without significantly improving the tale. I understand the point, I just don't value the end result as much as the adherents do.

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19 minutes ago, Accord64 said:

Proof that there's such a thing as too much "show".

That's exactly what I was thinking when I read that part...  There is definitely a place in writing for vagueness.

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6 minutes ago, Johne said:

how I hate the sort of Deep Third-Person that drones on for page after page causing story bloat without significantly improving the tale.

Of course.  No one wants to spend time reading a bunch of needless words.  But a lot of the time, eliminating the "think, saw, felt" words, can cut down on word count. 

 

For example - I felt a spider crawl up my arm.  Vs.  A spider crawled up my arm.

 

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1 minute ago, HK1 said:

For example - I felt a spider crawl up my arm.  Vs.  A spider crawled up my arm.


I agree with that sort of edit, but what I usually see is the opposite. Sometimes added richness detracts when a more direct statement keeps the narrative drive moving.

 

Quote

As I dozed I sensed rather than felt something on my arm. It was as if a tiny dancer was performing a routine - soft, light little steps in a random pattern on my skin. It reminded me of my mother's ballet practice sessions I'd sat in on when I was young in New York City off-Broadway in a kinder, gentler time. Or maybe I was just romanticizing my mother from the hazy distant memories of my more innocent youth. So much had happened since then - the divorce, the attack, the reconciliation, college, the military. There were times I wished I was back in that brightly-lit studio in those happy, halcyon days.

I rolled over and started to fade into sleep. And then a thought occurred: tiny dancer? On my arm?

I brushed those thoughts aside and fell into a troubled sleep haunted by dreams of fuzzy legs and fangs the size of icicles. 

 

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On 10/10/2019 at 6:39 PM, robg213 said:

I would also avoid the use of the word "ass."

Mom's favorite limerick from the days when we were children.

 

There once was a boy from Glass,

Who had the most beautiful ass,

Not round and pink,

Like you might think.

Gray, long ears, and ate grass.

:$

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I think the idea is a good idea, overall, but "never" is too absolute for me. Too much deep-third is as tedious as too distant. There is an ebb and flow using deep-third. 

 

I think of it much like camera distance in a movie. What do you want to see -- panoramic? Close-up? Or medium-frame? In our case, we have one more distance choice -- inside the head of the protag. We can become the character intimately. Closer than close-up.

 

But that much intimacy for extended periods is like being there when the character needs a potty break. Give him/her some privacy.

 

I do prefer not adding distant filters, ("thought verbs"), when the protag is experiencing the events, but sometimes he's figuring out what others are thinking too, so it's nice when he gets his buddy is realizing/understanding something.

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