Thought verbs.

I have been thinking about them, and about the conventional wisdom that they ought be avoided.  Also, I’m reading 2666, which features many contemplative characters contemplating contemplatively.  In that text, those pesky thought verbs (wonder, imagine, consider, and their ilk) do useful work in that they reinforce characters’ feelings of dissociation.  Given that one of the most pressing phenomena visible in this historic moment, at least in the US, is the pervasive mental healthcare industry, that language of distance — of standing outside yourself, observing, often in horror — seems far too useful to write off wholesale.  As usual with any blanket writing advice, I remain skeptical.  Embodied language works in a similar way — there are completely valid thematic reasons not to inhabit a character’s physicality.  Same goes for active verbs, my old hobbyhorse: passivity is useful when you have a static character becoming aware of their stasis, for example.  None of this is revelatory; I post it as a reminder to self, since many of these bits of advice parrot back back to me when I’m in the throes of revision, and too often that parroting is unhelpful.  When confronted with a writing truism, first look askance.  <–looks askance at previous sentence.

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One thought on “Thought verbs.

  1. Wow, I will be interested to discuss 2666 with you when you’re done, because I just sort of stumbled my way through it and I would love to be able to think more critically about it.

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