Do you run? Olympic marathon length or short sprints?
Writing is like running. We have different length pieces we work on. I just finished up what I would consider a 5K: a magazine piece for Arts + Culture Magazine about costume designers working in Texas. I am also on the home stretch for a marathon of a project, my first novel for children.
Naturally this lead to research about words. Specifically the word “run”. This took a lovely amount of time, during which I could feel like I was working, but alas, did not produce actual work. Hence the blog post. Gotta do something with all this not-work.
To Run: (according to dictionary.com)
verb (used without object), ran, run, running.
1. to go quickly by moving the legs more rapidly than at a walk and in such a manner that for an instant in each step all or both feet are off the ground.
2. to move with haste; act quickly: Run upstairs and get the iodine.
3. to depart quickly; take to flight; flee or escape: to run from danger.
4. to have recourse for aid, support, comfort, etc.: He shouldn’t run to his parents with every little problem.
5. to make a quick trip or informal visit for a short stay at a place: to run up to New York; I will run over to see you after dinner.
6. to go around, rove, or ramble without restraint (often followed by about): to run about in the park.
7. to move, roll, or progress from momentum or from being hurled, kicked, or otherwise propelled: The wheel ran over the curb and into the street.
verb (used with object), ran, run, running.
53. to move or run along (a surface, way, path, etc.):
Every morning he ran the dirt path around the reservoir to keep in condition. She ran her fingers over the keyboard.
54. to traverse (a distance) in running: He ran the mile in just over four minutes.
55. to perform, compete in, or accomplish by or as by running: to run a race; to run an errand.
56. to go about freely on or in without supervision: permitting children to run the streets.
57. to ride or cause to gallop: to run a horse across a field.
58. to enter in a race: He ran his best filly in the Florida Derby.
59. to bring into a certain state by running: He ran himself out of breath trying to keep pace.
There was more. Much more. The richness of adjective use and noun definition scrolled down my screen until I had to switch to my manuscript to keep from getting dizzy. Who knew one tiny three-letter word had so much meaning?
All this started because I didn’t want my character to “run” around the outside of the house. I needed a specific word that indicated “to move quickly and with great intent.” “Dashed” was my first attempt, but that seemed old-fashioned. I variously tried “loped”, “bounded”, “rushed”, “raced” before settling on “sprinted”.
This whole ten minutes of fiddling with the word “run” reminded me of an exercise that Darcy Patterson did in her weekend Novel Revision workshop she did for the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) a couple of years ago. (No, my mind was not wandering. I originally wrote this book for that workshop.) She challenged us to demonstrate a variety of ways to get from one side of the room to another. I was in a rare panic when I realized I would be demonstrating word number 25. Fortunately no one else used “skulk”. I excel at skulking.