One of the pieces of advice I always see is “Don’t use the be verb.” This is good advice, but not an absolute truth.
There are many reasons this advice is given. Often using a be verb means that something has been shown instead of told.
Tell: A car was on the road, oblivious to their hiding place
Show: A car drove by, oblivious to their hiding place.
Just changing the verb not only makes the sentence stronger, but it gives us more information. Instead of a car merely existing, a car is now moving. This satisfies another criteria for good writing: Always use the strongest verb possible.
However, can the strongest verb possible be the be verb? Can telling be better than showing? As with everything with writing, the answer is: once in a while.
Everyone in our little village had a religion, and Bob’s faith was the most unshakable. Bob was a pessimist.
And being that this treatise is running a bit short, let me add what I think is some of the best be-verb writing ever done. The opening lyrics to Jesus Built My Hotrod by Ministry.
Soon I discovered that this rock thing was true
Jerry Lee Lewis was the Devil
Jesus was an architect previous to his career as a prophet
All of a sudden,I found myself in love with the world
So there was only one thing that I could do
Was ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long