We’ve all read the advice about using powerful nouns and verbs in our prose. We’ve all been told to lay off the adjectives and the adverbs, especially the latter.
Well, here’s a little trick that I do to generate nouns and verbs, while simultaneously avoiding those hackneyed A&A words.
Quite often, in fact always, my stories will have a background motif or a character motivation–which is not to be confused with the theme of the story. For example, I recently wrote a story about two hungry aliens.
Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am big on the planning stage. Before I began writing the story, I sat down with my dictionary, synonym and thesaurus books. Sometimes I also access the internet for technical terms and slang, and I use a Taber’s Medical Dictionary. Then I generated a long list of nouns and verbs about hunger, food, eating, taste. I came up with a list like this:
Starve,( starveling- Noun), nourishment, consume, eatables, digest, absorb, appetite, ingest, stomach, belly, bowels, abdomen, stoma, chew, swallow, comestible, esculent, dietetic, tapioca, tapir, meal, fare, dine, sup, snack, nosh, sustenance, masticate, munch, crunch, bite, nibble, devour, tuck in, gobble, gulp, feast, banquet, gormandize, gorge, engorge, glut, sate, bulimia, voracious, famish, craving, ravenous, puckish, fallow, spare, lean, meager, unfertile, waste, emaciate, gaunt, hollow, wizened, pantry, larder, store, paltry pantry, juicy poultry, cupboard, cuddy, pancake, taco, flapjack, skeletal, drawn, wispy, savor, relish, smack, degust, libation, flavor, savor, spice, tang, tart, salty, peppery, vapidity, palatability, morsel, grain, flour, meal, roots, tubers, lard, fat, grease, dribble, craving, hankering, yearning, palate, gusto, affinity, penchant, predilection, propensity, proclivity, discernment, discrimination, finesse, parasite, worm, sponging, mooching, freeloading, panhandling, pang, spasm, twitch, kink, twinge, smart, ache, sore, distress, affliction, anguish, dolor (mournful), doldrums, angst, malaise, tasteless, vapid, insipid, pasty, ashen, wan, watery, jejune, anemic, esophagus, sphincter, ulcer. And the six stages of starvation in my Tabers….
Well, you see what I mean. It can go on and on. And it did. (Be careful to spot the adjectives that will creep into your lists–there are some in this list—I kept them anyway with hopes of turning them into nouns or verbs if necessary.) Some of you may find this process laborious, but I’m a nerd. I think it’s kind of fun.
Did I already know most of these words? Yes. Did I use all of these words? No. So, what’s the point? The point is the words were fresh in my mind and at my fingertips. Quite often having possession of the right word at the right time can influence the structure of a sentence before it’s even written.
Author’s Note: I do NOT advocate the use of so-called five dollar words. I find that a bit pretentious, don’t you? Nickel, dime, quarter and the occasional shiny fifty-cent piece will do 99% of the time. I guess that makes a slang word worth a penny.
P.S. Also note: Personally, I am not against adjectives and adverbs, but I will have to admit that most amateurs use them too much, and the advice does have merit. Nouns and verbs are you’re best ammo.