And I also learned some stuff.
One of the cool exercises we tried was simple yet effective: the prof told us to bring in our last submitted piece. Then, in class he had us read the first ten verbs in the piece, and he wrote them down on the board under each of our names. What was amazing was to see—to plainly unmistakably see—just how passive and tentative some people were, and just how much action and power and movement and life other people were putting into their stories.
I was reminded of this exercise by a semi-related post by someone in a private office over at Zoetrope. That writer—a proven pro who knows what he's talking about—was talking about finding a verb to define the scene as a whole, and then checking to see if the scenes were properly active and forceful. While that's a valid and potentially valid exercise, it sounds like work, and I am allergic to work. (Yes, I have a note from a doctor. Bite me.)
So I decided just to start my own damned meme:
MEME: YOUR FIRST TEN VERBS:
What are the first ten verbs in whatever project you are now or were most recently writing?
The exercise is intended to help you more clearly notice when your writing is passive and lackluster. In most cases (there are always exceptions) it's usually best to start strong and maintain momentum. If you look up and realize that you have a lot of "is" and "waits" and "sits" and "lays" as opening verbs, you might wanna give your opening a kick in the pants. Maybe.
My current open project is a period drama about a WW2 flyer over Stalingrad. Here are my first ten verbs from that piece:
Overall, not as bad as I was afraid it might be when I first decided to try this goofy trick.
What about you?
Just for the sake of crass self-promotion, I'm tagging three people to specifically answer this and carry the meme out to the scribosphere:
Warren ("The Screenwriting Life")
Scott ("Alligators In A Helicopter")
Adam ("One Slack Martian")
active voice B