Kill the Thought Verbs! Get Readers Involved

Story is action. Verbs create action. When your characters act, readers turn pages. But, you may slow down your readers when you go inside your character’s head. Not because you are going inside their head but because you revert to thought verbs.

What are thought verbs? They are the verbs you use to tell your reader what your character is thinking. You don’t want to use them.

The major baddies:

  • Think
  • Know
  • Understand
  • Realize
  • Believe
  • Want
  • Remember
  • Imagine
  • Desire

Each of these verbs, and there are many others, tell the reader rather than showing them.

Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk wrote about thought verbs in Lit Reactor. His advice is:

Thinking is abstract. Knowing and believing are intangible. Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing. And loving and hating.


  1. How to Show the Know
  2. Scout Your Manuscript
  3. Get Your Character in Conversation
  4. From Know to Go

How to Show the Know

You’ll make your writing dynamic by changing each instance of using a thought verb – knowrealizethink, etc. – into a descriptive passage where action and sensory detail shine through.. See More . . . 


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