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Transitive verbs

Creating story with one sentence construction.

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

A transitive verb is a verb that lets you do something to something or someone else. For example:

  • Ben hits Bill.
  • Ben helps Bill.
  • Ben hugs Bill.

Ben is the subject, and the verb (hit, help, or kiss) carries over to the object, Bill.

It could also be:

  • Ben hits the ball.
  • Ben helps the dog.
  • Ben hugs the tree.

The beauty of these sentences is that they can be the seeds of a story. They express the character of your story and what they want: to hit the ball, help the dog, or hug the tree.

Now apply the Mary Robinette Kowal quote that I’ve mentioned multiple times this week:

What’s the smartest thing my character could do to get to the next stage? How does it go terribly, terribly wrong? 
— Mary Robinette Kowal

You know your character’s goal, so what do they do? Most likely, it’s a direct action toward their goal. Now tell us how it goes terribly, terribly wrong.

How many ways can hugging Bill go wrong? Or helping the dog? Who or what intervenes? The object of the sentence or something else? And where does that lead afterward?

And finally, do they eventually succeed? Or does it completely fail? Does the dog run away? Or does Bill hit back?

You can create so many storytelling opportunities, all by playing with a single transitive verb.

David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.