Thought verbs. What are they? I first came across that term in an essay written by Chuck Palahniuk, which I’ll be quoting. I’d like to begin the first Thought Verb Thursday* with a discussion of what they are. Next week we can dive into each one and discuss how to rid them from our writing, as well as whether or not they should be.
Chuck defines a “thought verb” as words such as:
“Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use.”(¹)
Essentially, a thought verb is a verb you use as a shortcut. For example:
Sidney realized Teddy liked her.
Okay, that’s nice. But in the world of film and TV in which we live, readers are more visual than ever. And I like to think they’re also smarter than ever. They’d like to come to the same conclusion Sidney did on their own. Instead of the word, “realized”, how about this?
Sidney bolted to her feet, heart racing, knocking one of the greenhouse lights with her head. Teddy stood, arm brushing her face as he reached up to stop its swinging. Warm on her cold cheek, his bicep twitched but didn’t move as she tilted her head toward it. She looked up at him, and the corners of his mouth turned up as his arm came down. His eyes never left hers, and she could see the flush rising in his cheeks.
There you are, a different way to realize on your own that Teddy likes her, instead of me telling you. What do you think? Better, worse, indifferent? Do you prefer the abstraction of thought verbs? Or are you 100% for “show don’t tell”?