When we learned that the theme for last Tuesday’s class was verbs, I almost sprinted out of the classroom and made a clean break out of Lee Hills Hall for the day. Verbs had been on my mind for the past two weeks in magazine editing, and I was not pleased at the thought of discussing them any further. “Thanks but no thanks, Jeanne,” I thought the moment after my intermediate writing instructor announced the days’ activities.
Once she caught the eye-rolls and throat clearings, my professor announced that we would not be doing anything even close to parsing or diagramming verbs, as she knew we had been doing in our editing class. We were going to play a game. Whoever could come up with the best verbs the fastest won a prize.
Intrigued but still skeptical, I pulled out my blue lined notepad and began scribbling down every verb that came to mind. Not surprisingly, the first that came to mind brought about images of pain; I had just been thinking about parsing verbs, after all.
As the class period progressed, I began to realize how much I truly love verbs. We just had a little falling out for a few weeks when they decided to be difficult little traitors glaring at me from lines and lines of text.
Verbs are what take stories from mediocre to fantastic. An example of this is a story I read this weekend in Esquire called the Flight from Dallas. In it, the writer, Chris Jones, tells the story of the five hours following John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, specifically the flight on Air Force One.
This was the first time since class on Wednesday that I notice how verbs propel (isn’t that a good one, Jeanne?) a story to excellence. I was so excited I took a pink highlighter to the story and coated every shining verb with a layer of neon approval. My highlighter practically went in a frenzy of color when I found this sentence: “Other passengers have spent the entire flight with their foreheads cupped in their hands, disappearing into the universe, invaded only by the occasional sob from elsewhere in the cabin and the chugging of typewriters.”
“Chugging of typewriters”? Oh, I have so much love for that compound sentence composed of a dependent clause that is proceeded by another dependent clause and an independent clause. Ah, there you are again, magazine editing.