This activity is from Natalie Goldberg. She writes this in Writing Down the Bones, pages 87 - 89.

The Action of a Sentence


Verbs are very important. They are the action and energy of a sentence. Be aware of how you use them. Try this exercise. [Mr. B's students: you will need to do this on notebook paper. There is some on my desk if you need it.] Fold a sheet of paper in half the long way. On the left side of the page list ten nouns. Any ten.

lilacs
horse
mustache
cat
fiddle
muscles
dinosaur
seed
plug
video

Now turn the paper over to the right column. Think of an occupation; for example, a carpenter, doctor, flight attendant. List fifteen verbs on the right half of the page that go with that position.

A Cook:
saute
chop
mince
slice
cut
heat
broil
taste
boil
bake fry
marinate
whip
stir
scoop

Open the page. You have nouns listed in a row down the left side and verbs listed on the right. Try joining the nouns with the verbs to see what new combinations you can get, and then finish the sentences, casting the verbs in past tense if you need to.



A Cook:
lilacs

sauté
horse

chop
mustache

mince
cat

slice
fiddle

cut
muscles

heat
dinosaur

broil
seed

taste
plug

boil
video

bake


fry


marinate


whip


stir


scoop


Dinosaurs marinate in the earth.
The fiddles boiled the air with their music.
The lilacs sliced the sky into purple.

Here are some other examples of use of verbs.

Her husband's breath sawing her sleep in half. . .
The sunken light of late day stretches on their propane tank. [1]

I exploded when I saw him.[2]
Others in pairs in cars to the moon flashing river. [3]

. . . where angels and gladiolas walk your skin / to sleep in the earth. . .[4]

My blood buzzes like a hornet's nest.[5]

This does not mean that while you are writing you should stop and contemplate a new verb for an hour. Only, be aware of your verbs and the power they have and use them in fresh ways. The more you are awake to all aspects of language, the more vibrant your writing will be. You might decide ultimately that run, see, go are for you. That's fine, but then it is a choice you make rather than some place in your sentence where you are unaware, asleep and snoring.

MR B'S ASSIGNMENT WITH THIS IDEA

After you have had time to get your ideas together during prewriting and writing a first draft, use your ideas to create a piece of writing. It could be a story, it could be a poem, it could be an essay that your ideas inspire you to write. Show off with your verb usage in this assignment. Use verbs that are out of the ordinary. Not every time, but in places that will make your readers sit up and take notice. Be imaginative. Have some fun with the assignment.


Works Cited

[1] Both by Carolyn Forché, "Dawn on the Harpeth," unpublished poem given to Ms. Goldberg.
[2] Richard Hugo, "Time to Remember Sangster," in What Thou Lovest Well, Remains American (New York: W.W. Norton, 1975).
[3] Richard Hugo, "Why I Think of Dunmar Sadly," in What Thou Lovest Well, Remains American.
[4] From Kate Green, "Journal: July 16, 1981," in If the World Is Running Out, (Minnesota: Holy Cow! Press, 1983).
[5] From Anne Sexton, "Angel of Beach Houses and Picnics," in The Book of Folly (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972).