to verb or not to verb

Shi was sitting on the patio and every now and then, he would smile at something.

Shi sat in on the patio and every now and then, he smiled.

Shi reclined on a chaise on the patio, and every now and then, he smiled.

Not the best sentence to edit, I know. I took it from a chapter I’m semi-editing in a story called See Who Loves You Now, which is on my wattpad account. I’d written it about two years ago to work on writing in first person while I worked out how the “real” story would go. I wrote it and then didn’t look at it again. Now, I’m semi-editing it and the sentence above made me laugh at myself.

Verbs are important, and it’s better to give a more direct verb to be concise for grammar- but sometimes readers don’t understand the word choice, or can’t picture what the writer intends. I do try never to use ‘was’ or a verb phrase containing ‘was’, because the character is already. (was is a form of to be). Sometimes I can’t help it, and can’t see how to arrange the sentence any other way, so I leave it. It glares at me from the page, though.

There are a lot of overused verbs, so I’ve tried to come up with my own. My characters are majickal, and count spaces or fold space(teleport), and when someone is watching them leave- the air shimmers around them, A reader called me out on this the other day because they couldn’t picture the air shimmering. I don’t say they disappeared. They shimmered out of view, or they shimmered away. (Pretty sure Cole does it on the original “Charmed”-haven’t seen the new one so I can’t say)

The thing is, that one word encompasses several. In the instance they referred to, one of my characters removed a tophat from a sugar skull, and the majick tied to the hat broke, revealing that the sugar skull was actually a bust of Brahms.

The Sugar Skull shimmered into Brahms bust, and he saluted the man before placing the hat on his head.

I remember watching “Frosty The Snowman” as a kid and thinking how cool it was when the children put the hat on his head.

This for me, meant to shimmer, and now, that’s the verb I use.

Verbs are very important to help paint a clear image for the reader.

“I will go to the store,” she said.

looks better than:

“I was going to the store,” she said.

Dialogue, however, gives us a little leeway. Writers aren’t going for what looks better in dialogue. The dialogue helps with giving a character personality. In the instance above, will go is very formal. How many formal conversations do we have with friends or personal acquaintances? How many times have you personally said-

“Would you be so kind as to condescend to pay a call…?”

or do you say:

“Hey! Got plans tonight? Wanna hang out?”

Verbs make a big difference in the invitations. I try to keep it more formal outside the quotes than between them. But then it depends on the POV and how the character thinks.

Was going to can be changed to would or will

was sitting=sat

was dancing=danced

If we are in past tense, and discussing something that happened in the past:

They had walked over to the counter.

They had said, “Hey! Wanna go bowling after work?”

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