Better Verbs

Let’s start with an exercise I stole from Alexander Chee, who stole it from Annie Dillard, who stole it from Samuel Johnson.

Take a section of what you’re working on now and circle (or underline) every verb you use.

Next, count the verbs on each page, and write the number in the margin. When you get to the end of the piece, average the number. Continue reading “Better Verbs”

Something Surprising

I recently enjoyed the second season of the TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, so much so that I then re-watched the first season. Along with the whimsical air and luscious period detail, the episodes are sprinkled with delightful surprises.

Here’s an example (skip to after the asterisks if you don’t want Season 1 spoilers). Midge, the main character, is a recently-separated 1950s housewife who aspires to be a standup comedian. And she’s good. She doesn’t deliver dandy jokes, but rather she tells (sometimes improvised) stories about her life. She’s real and raw and also quite funny. Continue reading “Something Surprising”