Think verbs

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss an article on verbs by novelist Karen Bender.

I hadn’t heard of Karen Bender until I read her paean to verbs in the New York Times. A teacher in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina, and a published short story writer and novelist, Bender has strong views on the craft of writing.

“Stop thinking about nouns and adjectives,” she exhorts her students. “Think verbs.”

In her NY Times article, I particularly like the way she provides the opening sentence from John Cheever’s short story, “O City of Broken Dreams.”

“When the train from Chicago left Albany and began to pound down the river valley toward New York, the Malloys, who had already experienced many phases of excitement, felt their breathing quicken, as if there were not enough air in the coach.”

“This is the perfect opening to the story,” Bender asserts, saying: The verbs here — the train pounds and the breathing quickens immediately reveal two things — the power of the experience that will happen to them and the fact that the Malloys are anxious about what may happen.

I agree. And her passion for verbs led me check out her website, which includes many helpful pieces, such as her 10 commandments for writers. It’s enough to make me vow to read her 2013 novel, A Town of Empty Rooms. 

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