Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why Do You Hate Verbs, Artist?*

Last night I couldn't find the paperback novel I've been reading, so I picked up a book that I'd taken out of the library. It's by someone I consider a colleague and happens to be on the Nebula ballot this year.

I started reading it. Then I threw it down in disgust.

The plot sounds awesome. The prose is beautiful. But there is a distinct lack of verbs.

Why? For the love of God, why, I ask you, do people feel that it's artistic or atmospheric to have sentences (no, technically FRAGMENTS) without verbs? I absolutely hate that stylistic choice.

Though I've had this argument before -- and probably technically lost it the moment books without verbs were published and went on to win Nebulas and such -- I still maintain that writing without verbs is lazy. Yeah, yeah, poetry is built on lovely fragments. But novels aren't meant to be poetry, they're meant to be stories. Stories have action, and action words are verbs.

I'm okay with the occasional fragment, honestly, I am. But six or seven fragments to a page, not so much. (Note clever use of fragment for emphasis here.)

Seriously, as someone who writes first person almost exclusively, I understand the need to establish "voice" and it is true that people think in fragments. However, writing is artificial. Being in your head is too confusing; that is why I read your book. Writing is the process of making story make sense and pulling order from chaos. Part of that deal is providing the structure of sentences, which have a subject and a verb (though one can be implied on occasion -- usually the subject, not the verb.)

What I think bothers me most of all is that somehow this kind of sloppy writing has become a shorthand for "artistic." You drop a few verbs and people are all, "Wow, you're deep and meaningful." Except I suppose, more correctly, they'd simply utter, "Deep. Meaningful." because then there would be no verbs.

Why do you hate the English language so, Artistic Writer? WHY?


--- x-posted from Wyrdsmiths

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