Always use verbs-of-doing to present events in a story. Verbs can be in past or present tense, but keep them consistent (same tense throughout the essay):


Hamlet delivers his famous soliloquy, in which he ponders whether he should commit suicide.

Jack sharpens his stick at both ends.

However, by the time the old man returns, the fish has been consumed by sharks.


To provide context (for example, identifying a character or place), use appositives or descriptive phrases with verbs-of-doing, rather than extra sentences with verbs-of-being:


Bob Ewell, a dirt-poor, drunken farmer, accuses a young black man, Tom Robinson, of raping Ewell’s daughter Mayella.

Romeo visits his spiritual advisor, Friar Lawrence, and complains bitterly that he may not see his beloved Juliet.

Winston is taken to the Ministry of Love, the most mysterious place in the fictional nation-state of Oceania, where he undergoes psychological rehabilitation.


When citing events in a story as examples of literary elements or techniques, or of ideas suggested by a critical lens statement, try to put them in noun form rather than in noun-verb form preceded by “when…”


      Instead of…                                       Refer to…

      when Tom Robinson dies                      Tom Robinson’s death

      when Huck decides to rescue Jim          Huck’s decision to rescue Jim

      when the conch is destroyed                 the destruction of the conch


Use verbs-of-doing to indicate what the author, the story, or the event does (example verbs below can be used with different subjects):


The author shows                 The event suggests

The author creates               The author indicates

The event reveals                The story illustrates

The author presents            The author establishes

The story provides               The story demonstrates

The author describes          The author seems to believe


Use verbs-of-doing with literary terms:


The author’s use of imagery enables the reader to [envision, visualize]…

Through the author’s use of [lit. term], we realize

The [object/person] symbolizes [idea]…

[Name] is characterized as a [description], which suggests

[ ] metaphorically represents [ ]…

The conflict between [ ] and [ ] leads to…

The story’s plot unfolds gradually, revealing the ironic twist…

[Event] foreshadows [outcome]…

[Event] contributes to the story’s theme of…



Use verbs-of-doing when interpreting, and connecting examples to, a critical lens statement (examples show brief interpretations of specific critical lens statements from past Regents exams, and suggested corresponding texts):


(June 2001) The essential, diametrically-opposed concepts of good and evil provide the basis for the conflicting elements in any story.

(Lord of the Flies) The struggle between Ralph’s unselfish desire for civilization and rescue, and Jack’s animalistic lust for power and gratification, clearly delineates the essential conflict of good vs. evil in Golding’s novel.


(January 2001) The writer reveals to us our most essential and potentially harmful shortcomings, so that we may endeavor to overcome and eliminate them.

(1984) In creating this horrifying future world, Orwell warns us of where our society is headed, hoping that we will recognize the forces and ideas that may lead to it and correct them now, before it is too late. 


(August 2000) A story that ventures beyond the ordinary engages the reader more effectively through its very uniqueness, showing us something we’ve never seen before.

(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) Carroll’s vivid imagination takes the reader to places so strange and unusual that the novel maintains the reader’s interest, despite the tale’s absurdity and inconsistency.


Also, try to use verbs-of-doing in critical lens essay thesis statements:


In To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel by Harper Lee, and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, evil forces challenge, threaten and even subdue the good, but cannot and do not ultimately prevail.


The novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Macbeth reveal the dangers posed by excessive human ambition.