1. Published on Amazon? If you have a book, e-book, or audiobook available on Amazon.com, we'll promote it on WritingForums.org for free. Simply add your book to our Member Publications section. Add your book here or read the full announcement.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Dismiss Notice

Is - Was - A Sentence Killer?

Published by peachalulu in the blog peachalulu's blog. Views: 175

IS - WAS - A SENTENCE KILLER?
I'm starting to think so.

Yesterday, in Chapters I flipped through Douglas Glover’s Attack of the Copula Spiders - it looks interesting as writing manuals go. Not that any of them ever really help you creatively, per say, but some help you avoid writing down a dead end. This looks like one of those.


The book rallies against the use of dead verbs - to be, was, am, is etc. which the author found an abundance of in his students writing and by circling each dead verb, he could link them into a visual spider hence the title. It’s not that was, am, to be, is etc. can’t be used, it’s that they’re over used.

If you look up was in the dictionary - Was means
- to exist or live
- to take place, happen or occur
- to occupy a place or position
- to continue to remain as before
- to belong, attend, befall

...All of which can provoke a static sentence. I.e. - The bottle is on the bar. I am chief of police. I was at the dance. It can even pull the reins on an active verb .i.e. I was dancing. I was sledding. Retuning my creative mode I began to rethink openings should I enter a scene on a flat statement, creating a stagnant image or a moving one - and wondering how many was's are plaguing my work?

I dug up some books to see how the great ones handled verbs and made this list.

Here are some amazing verbs all of which could’ve been killed by the virus - was.

In Gravity’s Rainbow
a man threads himself into a robe
Another gobbles down croissants and coffee
He sprints towards laughter
People gargle wine
Pinball machines writhe under their handlers

In John Updike’s short story collection -
a jet engine is haloed by a rainbow
Lake water swallows two bather’s flesh up to their knees
A bed is sluing like a boat on a wave
Young girls throng a man’s vision
A card shark sandbags with three kings
A beer to soothe my mouth
A woman’s agitation consumes a chrysanthemum ( by her Plucking and rolling the petals )
Hickory trees are clangorous
The protoplasm of a house ebbs in stages

Margaret Atwood -
A mind shambles
A car crunches to a halt
fingers of snow creep over a road
float ( in a hammock )
Bedsprings mourn
Couples slither through slush
a voice prods
a thought is censored
a woman clamps her skirt between her knees
dancers whizz and careen

Angela Carter
pistons thrust a train forward
A woman beggared herself for love
sausages hiss in a pan
a woman is unwrapped (undressed )
An opal spurts green flame ( a color in the firelight )
  • jack lee
  • peachalulu
  • Sam Edge
You need to be logged in to comment