Monday, April 19, 2010

Pimp My Line: Or…Bland Verbs / Weak Descriptions

When revising, it’s amazing how you can transform a scene, or thought, or sentence, by cranking up verbs, adding details and character quirks. For example, the following sentence is good and functional.

He walked into the busy room.

We have a subject, “he” (an un-named, expendable crewman perhaps?), a verb, “walked”, and a setting, “busy room”. But what we don’t have is the reader’s attention. There’s nothing here to grab, thrill, confound, or perk their interest.

The sentence is a lost opportunity. As a writer of flash fiction (as well as longer works), I’ve learned it’s possible to tell an entire story in as little as 50 words, complete with plot, character, setting, and conflict.

Here’s my second pass at that functional sentence:

Kyle burst into the guy’s john, did the happy dance as he passed a line of shocked faces at the urinals, and then bolted himself in a stall. “Lactose intolerance…” He gave them a single warning.

So, what did I really do here? I gave the character a name, a more active verb and an unusual setting. Then I expanded, pulled my writer’s camera back a bit from Kyle, and gave the scene some perspective. I included the urinal users as he uttered his dire warning. That small bit of dialogue gives us his motivation and hints at the scenes outcome.

Now, if I can do all that in just 36 words….what can YOU do to tweak your work-in-progress today? I dare you to find even just one functional sentence and crank it up.

I’d love to read examples. If you’re keen for a challenge, or could use a writer prompt-ish activity on this fine Monday, then take this sentence and run with it (posting your work in a comment would be marvy!).

Pimp My LINE: She wished everyone would go away.

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