Verb Synonyms — A simple writing exercise

A simple writer’s exercise — verb synonyms

One of the changes that I’m trying to make in my writing is to do some writing exercises on a weekly basis.

Here’s one I did this evening with verb synonyms.

Step One — Make a list of twenty verbs

Make a list of twenty verbs, but not just any twenty.

Pull out your latest work and go through looking for verbs you’d like to improve. If you can’t find twenty that you want to improve then backfill the list with common words that you think of off of the top of your head.

Make two vertical lines so that you’ve got three columns.

Step Two — Use your brain (not your computer)

Yes, I know that you can use google or or right click in your word document to come up with synonyms, but let’s get away from technology for a while.

In the second column, write down a synonym for each word. Bend the meanings a bit if you need to, but either way fill in the second column.

Step Three — Involve another human

Hit up your spouse, kids, roommate or call someone on the phone.

Read them the words in the first two columns and have them fill in the third with their input. Once they figure out what’s going on, it add some fun and lets you think outside the box because you’re using someone else’s brain.


The Anatomy of a Story

I am often asked “Where do stories come from?”

Sometimes they appear out of whole clothe right before my eyes. Sometimes they are simply the answer to a question, “What would happen if …”

The latest short story making itself through my brain and into a word processor probably tomorrow started something like this:

The Setting

My wife and I went away from the weekend to Chattanooga. Low and behold, they were hosting the “Head of the Hooch Regatta” for crew teams from junior teams, college teams, “open” teams. There were some kids with parents and a lot of kids in groups and a few wandering by themselves.

We walked around and enjoyed several restaurants in town and a bunch of little shops and the walking bridge.

Also dancing around the back of my head was daughter’s admonition to write something that didn’t involve plane crashes, assassinations, terminal illness. “Try writing something happy, Dad.” Something happy. Well that seems doable. I like love stories or at least relationship stories (although I usually kill someone on the way to the happy ending).


I know next to nothing about “crew” other than what I learned back in the days of talking to Laura B when she was on the UC Davis crew team and that was mostly remembrances of insane workouts.

So I stopped a couple of hapless college kids who were walking away from their sleeping bags because they were not only racing on very cold water but several schools were just there in sleeping bags on the side of the river for two or three nights in the forty-three degree weather and at least made them tell me how this race was being run.

And then there is listening to people in the crowds and hearing the phrases and reading the crude T-Shirts for sale in the pavilions that have sprouted up around the festival.

And when I returned home there was Wikipedia for some idea of rowing terms and races (8, 4, 2 person — lightweight and unlimited, etc) and of course, it won’t hurt to find the actual “Head of the Hooch” website so that I get most of the facts straight.

What about a plot and where will they meet

Well, she’s the high-strung overachiever and he attends the school that she got bumped out of for the final scholarship. She only dates in the offseason and then summarily breaks up with the guys and has no interest except winning at the regatta.

He grew up on the Hooch even though he went off to the top rowing school in the Northeast. They meet at Pizza on the Hill when she gets the line for the guys restroom (hey it’s shorter and it’s a single use at a time bathroom) and forgets her coat so he talks one of her teammates into letting him chase her down even though they warn him about her.

And so it goes ….

So where’s the story

So where is the story, you may be asking?

Well, it’s still rattling around in my head (at least for now) and it won’t be out right away although probably the first draft will be done by Tuesday and then if it’s any good, I may actually (shock!) try to submit it somewhere so it will be a while before it appears, but when it does, at least you’ll know where it came from.