It’s not just a part of it; it’s the heart of it



More than 500 years ago, Leonardo Da Vinci inspired heart surgeons with his intricate drawings of the heart.

The heart continues to inspire us: it is the cornerstone of religious thought, the muse for artistic expression and the stuff—practical and otherwise—from which love stories are born.

The heart is physical and metaphorical.

It is the centerpiece of humanity, God’s pièce de résistance. Therein lies mystery, sweetness, devotion and bitter deceit.

Those who have heard that “lub-dub” will not soon forget the amazement, the fascination with the lullaby that God placed in our chests, the essence of physical life, the seat of emotions.

There is a centerpiece in every sentence … and it’s fully capable of rousting amazement or fascination, or of lulling us into a euphoric state.

It’s capable of grounding us to what is physical or transporting us to metaphorical heights.

Listen … can you hear it beating in the sentence? If you moved a stethoscope over the sentence, it would come to rest over the verb.

Its presence is unmistakable. It’s where the action is. At times it shouts and sometimes it whispers, “Something’s happening here.”

Verbs keep us reading.

Take away the subject. Take out the adverb. Remove all the adjectives … but don’t touch the verb; visible or implied, it’s the heart of the sentence.

The verb may be active: His eyes raked the angry crowd, or passive: She didn’t have to do anything or be anyone. She just “was.”

Just as a heart reveals the nature of the one who possesses it, so the verb reveals the character of the one performing the action.

What do these verbs reveal about their characters?

Her fingers wrestled with the rhythms and, at last, danced obediently across black and white.

He cast out his thoughts, lost sight of them, then reeled them in.

He winked; she waved, blushing. He tipped his hat; she tried to hold back the smile that tugged at the corners of her lips.

Student and maestro. Disciple and master. One tentative, one assured; one impulsive, one wise. (Verbs may be implied.)

The reading transformed her. Never again would she crunch on a carrot without recalling such a thing.

The passive verb can be thought-provoking: What was he to become?

The active verb gives the subject something to do and can be transitive (reveals what is happening to an object and tells us something about the subject) or intransitive (reveals something about the subject).

Her words sliced through his facade (“sliced” is transitive).

He fled (“fled” is intransitive).

When ordinary words are used in unusual ways, they grab the reader’s attention.

Their words tangoed.

His fingers hooked what they were grappling for (how many times would he forget where he put those keys?).

His memory faded among the old photographs, weathered, edge-blurred.

She flitted, then leapfrogged … her three-year-old imagination carrying her over and around and under.

She cradled her revenge.

Emotions simmered, then boiled.

Thinking of your own examples is fun and easier than you might think. Give it a try!

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