Choosing Action Verbs
Action verbs are verbs that describe action, as opposed to verbs that describe a state of being. To act, to sing, and to dance are all examples of verbs that describe action. To write is an action verb, too, because it describes something that you can actually do. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the verb to be, which is relatively flat and lifeless because it merely describes a state.
Jessica is singing a song.
Martin is writing a play.
Even though both sentences contain the word
John was singing a song.
John sang a song.
John had sung a song.
All of the above example sentences mean the same thing. The appropriate choice depends on the tense of the particular passage and how the activity of singing relates to what else is going on in the story.
It is very important to make sure that your verbs are used in the proper tense, but it's also important to try to make your verb usage as active as possible.
Remember, good writing should show, not tell, the reader what is happening. In crafting your story, try to choose verbs that show action. Sometimes, you will want to use weaker verbs like
You should not make a habit of using action verbs to attribute dialogue when characters are speaking. Consider the following examples:
“Sarah and Tom tied the knot last week,” Julie informed Sam.
“But I never thought they would actually marry,” Sam intoned.
“None of us did. But they appear to have taken the leap,” Julie added.
“How long do you think they'll be together?” Sam queried.
“Oh, be nice,” Julie admonished. “You shouldn't be so negative,” she advised.
As you can see, the action verbs used to attribute the dialogue actually slow down the flow of the conversation. In dialogue, what's important are the words being said. That's why when it comes to attributing dialogue, there is no better word than
Attribution tags are a storytelling technique, and it's a good idea to keep them as simple as possible. The beauty of the word