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
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