Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Red, Hot, Chili Peppers


In the middle of my cavort across the countryside this weekend, I visited the marche Jean-Talon in Montreal, and took pictures like a tourist of epiciers, fromageriers and chocolatiers.

Of buskers and boucheries and bushels of cranberries and coloured cauliflower.

(I apologize for my English keyboard which seems impervious to accent marks.)

I left with red pepper jelly and smoked gouda cheese and Moroccan sweets.

The most sensual delight of all was a (rather famous) booth/shop offering exotic herbs and spices and oils, a selection of mortars and pestles, as well as other, more arcane tools for gourmet cooks.

Writing is like cooking.

Writers are warned to avoid the bland and passive and to punch up a narrative with vivid verbs.

Like spice.

Unfortunately, this recipe sometimes leads to an excess of hyper-verbs, dumped in by the heavy hand of an inexperienced cook, where simple movement is exaggerated to "storming across a room," or a distant sound "assaults" an ear.

Strong verbs elevate prose, but seldom should they be the only thing one can taste in a sentence.

The idea is to make the mouth water - not the eyes.

27 comments:

StarvingWriteNow said...

I agree with you on the verb-age. Distant sounds assaulting ears always brings on rolling that assaults the eyes!

That market looked awesome!

SzélsőFa said...

I liked the metaphor, too!

Robyn said...

What a fun outing. That's a great market.

Good examples. I get that feeling when reading every other sentence ending in an exclamation point! I always imagine the person screaming.

writtenwyrdd said...

The concept of using "strong" or "powerful" verbs is perhaps the problem. I think some new writers misunderstand this advice to say that the meaning of the verb must be powerful or strong; whereas the meaning of the "rule" is that the word choice must be precise, doing the heavy work of conveying the meaning.

Robyn said...

Okay, I just realized the two posts before mine ended in ! I wasn't talking about you guys, I meant dialogue! Really! I swear!

Carla said...

Neat analogy.
Impressive-looking market, too. Does the rest of Quebec have French-style markets, or is it just Montreal?

Charles Gramlich said...

Great metaphor. Let the movies water the eyes.

Bernita said...

It is lovely, Starving,varied and friendly, and I got a charge out of being addressed as "Madame."

Thank you, Szelsofa.

Constant exclamations in narrative make me scream, Robyn.

And they need to be of appropriate voltage, Written.

Hee, Robyn. Blogs are different.
I sometimes feel I sound unenthusiastic if I leave them off comments.
And just after I wrote and posted this morning, I read a use of "storming" in a piece by ME Ellis that is proper and effective.

Quebec City does, Carla, and I assume smaller places do as well.
Even my little town here in Ontario has a tiny one.
Tourists tend to visit the Atwater market; Montrealers, the Jean-Talon.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Charles.

Savannah Jordan said...

Maybe it comes from my time in France, but I love to wander the open air markets. The herb/spice/oil shop sounds much like my favourite booth at the Ren Faire. I'm a scent hound. LOL

As to proper use of powerful verbage--I totally agree. There is a time and place for everything.

And, Robyn, I edited a text that was guilty of ! abuse. That was enough to make the eyes water.

Bernita said...

Eh, jalapeno prose, Savannah.
Such markets are a flagrant display of good things.

raine said...

The idea is to make the mouth water - not the eyes.

Very well-said, Bernita, lol.
And that market looks great.

Ello said...

You are so right. I was just perusing all the entries on Nathan Bransford's first paragraph contest and I was surprised by the number of entries that felt it necessary to use the thesaurus so heavily in that first paragraph. Simpler word choices would have had greater impact, I think. But I guess people want to zing up their first paragraphs as much as possible not realizing sometimes that it can be quite a turnoff.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Raine.
And at some stalls one could sample.

What surprised me most about the entries, Ello, was how long the "paragraphs" were - more like a full page.

Lisa said...

I love the spice metaphor it came up recently in conversation, but as it relates to description. I find in my own writing that I need more practice measuring out description. Sometimes I have long passages of it and then nothing. It makes me think of how important it is to use a pastry blender when making pie crust so that the ingredients are evenly distributed. Lovely photos.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Lisa.
Cooking is an old metaphor in relation to writing, but your mention of a pastry blender is a good one. We've all seen critiques that mention prose "larded" with this or that.

Rob said...

I love wandering around open markets. Unfortunately, there aren't any around my new place, so it doesn't happen often.

Great advice and very clearly put. Sometimes you have to resist the urge to just toss more garlic in there.

Bernita said...

Hee, Rob! Well put, yourself.

Gabriele C. said...

I think I like my cooking spicier than my prose.

Says she who has more than 50 different herbs and spices, but no Thesaurus. :) Though I use an online one, sometimes.

spyscribbler said...

I've been trying to be more vivid, and have been feeling like there just aren't enough verbs in the English language. Ah well. I used another adverb today. Can adverbs be spicy, sometimes, too?

Church Lady said...

I tend to use exclamation marks all over my blog posts. Especially if I use an exclamation mark with one person, I feel I have to treat everyone with an equal number of exclamation marks so no-one's feelings get hurt. I have an issue to be worked out, I know! :-)

Overuse of strong verbs stands out. It's tiresome. But fortunately, easily spotted and corrected.
:-)

writtenwyrdd said...

That's exactly what I was trying to say, Bernita. "Appropriate voltage" is it indeed. Better than that tired old term "impact," anyhow!

Jane said...

Great post. There is nothing like someone turning into the Queen of Personification and everything lives and breaths, etc.

Just enough spice.

And I'd love that cheese. Looks like a great day.

The Anti-Wife said...

What a wonderful picture. It makes my mouth water just considering the delicious treats one could conjure up with all those fresh spices.

Bernita said...

Me too, Gabriele. Though some I have just for the sheer pleasure of having, for their smells and associations.

Why not, Natasha? Or sweet.

I have the same issue, Chris!

Sometimes writers confuse "electricity" with "shock", Written.


Thank you, Jane.
Cette un fromage delicieux.

Indeed, AW!
It was a salivating day.
Thank you.

Demon Hunter said...

I love the posts and your metaphors... :*)

Bernita said...

Thank you, my Demon.