I recently read Chuck Palahniuk’s essay where he challenges writers to stop using “Thought verbs” for six months to become better writers and it was a real “lightbulb” moment.
I did a search in my current work in progress for thought verbs from Chuck Palahniuk’s list:- Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires and highlighted the thought verbs and revised or removed them and found my writing richer.
And after only a few days concentrating on not using the thought verbs, I can see an improvement in my writing already.
e.g. Jane feels tired; she’d scrubbed the floors of the old church and believes it is complete.
No thought verbs — Jane straightened her aching back, dropped the scrubbing brush in the bucket and moved to her feet, every muscle in her body throbbed but the gleam on the church’s old oak floor brought a smile to her face. She’d done it!!
If you exclude thought verbs the writer is forced to “show” the information instead and this lets the reader know the details rather than the characters knowing.
If the character wants something, the writer’s challenge is to ensure the reader wants it too and writers do this using the senses:- sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, proprioception (the sense that gives you the ability to tell where your body parts are, relative to other body parts) tension Sensors, nociception (pain), equilibrioception (the sense of balance).
Avoid using “thought” verbs at the beginning of a paragraph where you state the intention of the paragraph and steal the thunder of what follows.
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.
Get your characters together and get the action started. Let the characters actions and words show their thoughts then you will stay out of their heads.
And while you’re avoiding “thought” verbs, be very wary about using the bland verbs “is” and “have.”
REWRITE SOMETHING OF YOUR OWN WITH NO THOUGHT VERBS OR REWRITE SOME OF THE EXAMPLES BELOW.
“Knows Understands, Think, Believe Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, and Desires, forgets Loves and Hates, feels, knows, feels” and these are only the tip of the iceberg and if you come up with some of your own, please share.
Check out Nuts and bolts “thought” verbs by Chuck Palahniuk
* All dialogue must be contained between ‘speech marks’, which are also called ‘quote marks’ or ‘inverted commas’. It depends where and when you went to school J Whether you use ‘single’ or “double” speech marks depends on whether you are writing in “American” English (“double), ‘United Kingdom’ English (‘single’) or ‘Australian’ English. (Note: ‘single speech marks are the current industry standard for Australian English, though sometimes “double” speech marks are still used.)
*Simple speech tags
The opening speech marks are placed before the first word of dialogue begins, and the closing speech marks follow the punctuation that follows the last word.
e.g. “I’d love to visit Europe one day,” said Loredana.
OR “I’d love to visit Europe one day,” Loredana said.
OR Loredana said, “I’d like to visit Europe one day.”
All three are correct.
At the beginning of the dialogue, always start the sentence in an uppercase letter.
e.g. “Do you think you’ll ever get there?” asked Jarod.
A quote is separated from the speech tag using one of a comma OR a question mark OR an exclamation mark, but never with a full stop (AKA a period in the USA). A full stop makes the dialogue a complete sentence:
e.g. “I can only hope so.” she said.
OR “I can only hope so.” She said.
These sentences are both incorrect. In the second instance, *She said.* is not a standalone sentence because *said* needs an object for a standalone sentence (What did she say? She said, “I can only hope so.”)
“I can only hope so,” she said.
The above sentence is correct. Here the dialogue begins with an uppercase letter inside the speech marks. The closing speech mark is immediately after the punctuation mark. Finally, the speech tag starts in the lower case and ends with a full stop.
* When there are two or more characters speaking in turn, always start a new paragraph for each new character speaking (and try to keep all the actions of a particular character in the same paragraph as the dialogue by that character).
* Only use one speech tag per paragraph. The exceptions are when the second speech tag is either *he continued* or * she added*.
* Tags inside a single sentence of dialogue
e.g. “No,” Jarod said in a soft voice, “you can’t live on hopes and dreams.”
In the above type of sentence, you have a few words of dialogue, followed by a speech tag, and then the continuation of the dialogue. The two pieces of dialogue must be related and must not be two independent clauses (standalone sentences).
*Two or more paragraphs of dialogue by the same person
e.g. “Dialogue with or without speech or action tags. Only one person speaking but she likes to talk a lot. Yadda yadda. Blah, blah, blah. Making it one loooong paragraph might bore your readers. Changing it into a few shorter sentences might prevent your reader from falling asleep. As this person’s speech is going to continue on to the next paragraph, you do NOT put closing speech marks, just the punctuation, whether it’s an exclamation point, question mark or a full stop. NOTE AGAIN, there are no closing speech marks.
“See the speech marks here? This next paragraph must start with speech marks to indicate that the person from the previous paragraph is still speaking. The same goes for all paragraphs that follow until you reach the end of that person speaking (someone might have fallen asleep after all). Once you get to the end of his discourse, you end the sentence with an exclamation point, question mark or a full stop, and then follow it with the closing speech marks.”
*Quotations inside quotations:
Quotations need to be treated as a sentence inside a sentence: the first word of the quotation is capitalized even if it is not the first word of the sentence, but the quotation does not have its own ending mark (apart from the closing quotation mark). If you use “double” quotes for speech marks, then the quotation must be inside ‘single’ quote marks, and vice versa.
e.g. “No matter what you think, if you don’t have hope and dreams, you may as well give up on everything. Thoreau said, ‘Some look at things that are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?’ and I couldn’t agree more.”
* We’ll leave Loredana and Jason here so I can demonstrate continuing dialogue separated by an action tag:
Note the lack of punctuation at the end of the first part of the dialogue, the placement of the em dashes outside the speech marks, and that the second part of the dialogue begins in the lower case.
“I am starting to talk here” —I scratch my head at how weird it looks— “but it’s correct. Go figure.”
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