A reminder for everyone.
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 had always leaned on his locker when he’d go to open it. She’s 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 butt. 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.
“Brenda knew she’d never make the deadline. 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.
If nothing else, cut the opening sentence and place it after all the others. Better yet, transplant it and change it to: Brenda would never make the deadline.
Thinking is abstract. Knowing and believing are intangible. Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing. And loving and hating.
Don’t tell your reader: “Lisa hated Tom.”
Instead, make your case like a lawyer in court, detail by detail.
Present each piece of evidence. For example: “During roll call, in the breath after the teacher said Tom’s name, in that moment before he could answer, right then, Lisa would whisper-shout ‘Butt Wipe,’ just as Tom was saying, ‘Here’.”
One of the most-common mistakes that beginning writers make is leaving their characters alone. Writing, you may be alone. Reading, your audience may be alone. But your character should spend very, very little time alone. Because a solitary character starts thinking or worrying or wondering.
For example: Waiting for the bus, Mark started to worry about how long the trip would take…”
A better break-down might be: “The schedule said the bus would come by at noon, but Mark’s watch said it was already 11:57. You could see all the way down the road, as far as the Mall, and not see a bus. No doubt, the driver was parked at the turn-around, the far end of the line, taking a nap. The driver was kicked back, asleep, and Mark was going to be late. Or worse, the driver was drinking, and he’d pull up drunk and charge Mark seventy-five cents for death in a fiery traffic accident…”
A character alone must lapse into fantasy or memory, but even then you can’t use “thought” verbs or any of their abstract relatives.
Oh, and you can just forget about using the verbs forget and remember.
No more transitions such as: “Wanda remembered how Nelson used to brush her hair.”
Instead: “Back in their sophomore year, Nelson used to brush her hair with smooth, long strokes of his hand.”
Again, Un-pack. Don’t take short-cuts.
Better yet, get your character with another character, fast.
Get them together and get the action started. Let their actions and words show their thoughts. You—stay out of their heads.
And while you’re avoiding “thought” verbs, be very wary about using the bland verbs “is” and “have.”
“Ann’s eyes are blue.”
“Ann has blue eyes.”
“Ann coughed and waved one hand past her face, clearing the cigarette smoke from her eyes, blue eyes, before she smiled…”
Instead of bland “is” and “has” statements, try burying your details of what a character has or is, in actions or gestures. At its most basic, this is showing your story instead of telling it.
And forever after, once you’ve learned to Un-pack your characters, you’ll hate the lazy writer who settles for: “Jim sat beside the telephone, wondering why Amanda didn’t call.”
Please. For now, hate me all you want, but don’t use thought verbs. After Christmas, go crazy, but I’d bet money you won’t.
For this month’s homework, pick through your writing and circle every “thought” verb. Then, find some way to eliminate it. Kill it by Un-packing it.
Then, pick through some published fiction and do the same thing. Be ruthless.
“Marty imagined fish, jumping in the moonlight…”
“Nancy recalled the way the wine tasted…”
“Larry knew he was a dead man…”
Find them. After that, find a way to re-write them. Make them stronger.
I need to go back to school.
My learning is ofwficially insignificant. My writing minor and all those classes do not make me as qualified as reading this has.
my bike got stolen today
they cut the cable i locked up my bike with while i was in class
its a mountain bike so if anyone in tampa (more specifically near USF[University of South Florida]) sees this bike please let me know (preferably) or call police (if you tell me you have seen it though i can call campus police immediately if your worried about making a false call) if it fits the special details i list below (not many people use a mountain bike for just getting around so it should be my bike but still be sure)
-squeakyish when going slow
-little rust on brakes by the wheels
-cup holder under frame (most face up but mine was down)
-little rusted bolts on the handle
-super rusted kickstand that is hard to move (i had to kick it repeatedly to move it up or down) it also squeaks a lot when its moved
-semi rusted belt
and if you cant see it it’s called a sahara mongoose and its a 21 speed
PLEASE help me get it back i love this bike, my father gave it to me and its my only means of transportation
IT KINDA HIT ME THAT SOMETHING HORRIBLE COULD HAPPEN TO ONE OF MY INTERNET FRIENDS AND I’D NEVER KNOW AND I’D SIT HERE AND WAIT AND WAIT FOR THEM AND THEY’D NEVER COME BACK SO I JUST WANT TO SAY I LOVE ALL OF YOU OKAY NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU GUYS OR TO ME OR ANYTHING OKAY I LOVE ALL OF YOU SO MUCH
I got dressed in my traditional Indian regalia, but there was a man, he was the producer of the whole show. He took that speech away from me and he warned me very sternly. “I’ll give you 60 seconds or less. And if you go over that 60 seconds, I’ll have you arrested. I’ll have you put in handcuffs.”
- Sacheen Littlefeather in Reel Injun (2009), dir. Neil Diamond.
They were MAD, CONFUSED AND PRESSED that Marlon Brando would betray White Supremacy in this way.
To this very day, they are TWISTED over this.
And when Littlefeather got up there and READ THEM FOR FILTH, they GAGGED. For eons.
So I imagine there are people like me out there who’ve never even heard of Marlon Brando and are extremely confused over why this is important.
Marlon Brando was the Don in The Godfather, and in 1973, he was nominated for and won an Academy Award for it. However, he was also a huge Natives rights activist, and boycotted the ceremony because he felt that Hollywood’s depictions of Native Americans in the media led to the Wounded Knee Incident (which I was always taught as “the second massacre at Wounded Knee” but apparently that’s not the real name). He sent Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache Native rights activist, in his stead. Wikipedia’s article on her explains the rest:
Brando had written a 15-page speech for Littlefeather to give at the ceremony, but when the producer met her backstage he threatened to physically remove her or have her arrested if she spoke on stage for more than 60 seconds. Her on-stage comments were therefore improvised. She then went backstage and read the entire speech to the press. In his autobiography My Word is My Bond, Roger Moore (who presented the award) claims he took the Oscar home with him and kept it in his possession until it was collected by an armed guard sent by the Academy.
That is what this gifset is about.
You have GOT to read up on this. The Wounded Knee Incident, Marlon Brando and Sacheen Littlefeather, Anna Mae Aquash. ALL OF IT.
Her name was known in my house, I hope it’s known in many, many more in the future.
UGH WHY CAN’T GUYS EVER LOOK AT ME LIKE THIS
Because just like Rapunzel, you aren’t looking at them when they do.
^you my friend have just opened my eyes
guys this is off topic and i don’t want to be ~that person~ but
No, be that person. BE THAT PERSON.