#3 – VERBS – ANIMATED SUBJECTS

RESTORE BY NUMBERS

I provide a passage from a master that has been vandalized (by me) at the numbered locations.  You restore the original. 

THE CRIME:

He took off (i) his shoes and went down (ii) the bank into the water.  He started to swim (iii) strongly.  A few yards from shore the current acted (1) as though he were a log and made him go (2) downstream at a fierce clip.  He tried to keep control (iv), fighting for distance.  Jody saw him get up shakily (v) far down the run, clear the water from his eyes (vi) and make his way back up (vii) the shore to his dogs.  He looked at (viii) the hound, then put it (ix) under one arm.  This time he went some distance upstream before taking to the creek.  When he got back  into (x) the water, using (xi) his free arm, the current resumed control (3) and brought him (4) almost at Jody’s feet.

Clue:  There are two exercises here.  First, the verb phrases preceding the Roman numerals (e.g., i), should employ strong, vigorous verbs.

Second, in the verb phrases preceding the Arabic numerals (e.g., 1), treat the subject (i.e., the current) as referring to an animated being (i.e., a person or an animal).  So, in the case of the current, if it were a person, what would it DO? 

Copy and paste the passage elsewhere in order to edit it.  Your goal is to IMPROVE the vandalized version.  Then check E.J.’s comments below.

A Tip:

The greater your vocabulary, the more ­effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. – P.D. James  (This tip bore repeating.)

THE ORIGINAL (Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in “The Yearling”):

He slipped off (i) his shoes and slid down (ii) the bank into the water.  He struck out (iii) strongly.  A few yards from shore the current laid hold of him (1) as though he were a log and shot him (2) downstream at a fierce clip.  He struggled against it (iv), fighting for distance.  Jody saw him stagger to his feet (v) far down the run, wipe the water from his eyes (vi) and push his way back up (vii) the shore to his dogs.  He leaned to examine (viii) the hound, then gathered it (ix) under one arm.  This time he went some distance upstream before taking to the creek.  When he dropped into (x) the water, stroking with (xi) his free arm, the current picked him up (3) and deposited him (4) almost at Jody’s feet.

E.J.’s Comments:

Ask yourself, did you IMPROVE on the vandalized version?  Unless you are psychic, you did not duplicate the author’s diction.

First exercise: Note how the verbs portray the actions photographically or cinematically.  The shoes “slip” off (i), the feet “slide” down (ii), and the arm “strikes” (iii).  You SEE the actions.  Ditto the other verbs in this exercise.

In the second exercise, the current appears to have arms and impressive muscular strength and malevolent intention (1 & 2), and then the current uses its arms and strength to treat the protagonist with benevolent intention (3 & 4).  The current has been personified.*

An animated subject may also resemble an animal; e.g., a leaf flutters to the ground (like a butterfly).

Bonus Tip: Yes, a command of language is the first requirement for a writer.  Putting words on paper is not necessarily writing; it may be just scribbling, without craftsmanship.  Writing is a craft.

(*Did you notice the passive construction here?  Does it sound better to write “The author personified the current”?   Not if you want to focus the reader’s attention on the current rather than on the author.)

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About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website www.WhiskyJackPublishing.ca
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