(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“Forward motion in any piece of writing is carried by verbs.” William Sloane

“The core of our language is the verb, the word that denotes an action, whether transitive, intransitive, or reflexive.” William Sloane

“Passive verb forms often signal authorial hedging or limpness of thinking.” William Sloane

“Use strong verbs and short sentences to make the action seem greater.” Othello Bach

“Give the central role to a strong verb.” Jacques Barzun

“These strong verbs of your choosing you must use in the active voice whenever possible. The subject of your thought acts upon other subjects and objects. Naturally, no suggestion of this sort can be carried out against the resistance of the material itself, which is your thought. But if you bear in mind the preferability of agents acting on their surroundings to the surroundings being acted on by the agents (passive voice of the verb), you . . . will gain the invaluable power of movement that comes from the recital of actions.” Jacques Barzun

“Visual and rhythmic variety increases as each verb strikes its particular note.” Jacques Barzun