Posted by: nancycurteman | November 17, 2014

6 Ways to Create Powerful Verbs

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Powerful verbs are to writing what powerful engines are to airplanes. They are one of the elements needed to propel your story forward. To energize your writing, you need to use a variety of powerful action verbs. They should appeal to the reader’s senses of sight, sound, touch or smell. Verbs outrank adjectives and adverbs in their ability to provide realistic visuals and evoke feelings in your readers. Here are 6 ways to create powerful verbs:
  • Replace simple verbs with picturesque verbs:
    -Characters can walk but it’s better if they saunter, stride, strut, swagger, vault, skulk, or sashay
    -They can see but it’s better if they gawk, gape, glare, eyeball, laser, or study
    -Characters can cry but it’s better if they wail, bawl, bleat, yowl, blubber, weep or bleat
  • Use one concise verb rather than a verb phrase.
    -Instead of: He did not remember to take his list. Say: He forgot his list.
    -Instead of: She did not pass the paper screening. Say: She failed the paper screening.
  • Verbs ending in –ing weaken the impact of your verbs.
    -Instead of: The sun was burning her. Say: The sun burned her.
    -Instead of: He was going to pass her in a moment. Say: He would pass her in a moment.
  • Replace most of your passive verbs with active verbs. However, there are times when it is better to use passive verbs? Use the passive verb when the story calls for a change of pace. For example, to slow down the action, reduce tension, or stretch the narrative.
  • Replace your adverbs with verbs that are so powerful they don’t require modifiers.
  • Invent interesting verbs from other word forms.
    -She skunked the car up with her Limburger cheese
    -He snaked through the hallways of the old house.
    -She wormed her way out of the exam
    She doctored the paper until it was perfect.
    -Old man Jones policed his yard with a shotgun at his side.
    -They tabled or shelved your idea.

Powerful verbs can make the difference between a slow-moving novel and one that is a page-turner.

More Writing Tips:

How to Add Creative Transitions to Your Novel

What is Story Structure?



  1. Love reading your blog, Nancy. All the best with your new book.


    • Thank you Devora. I appreciate your good thoughts for the success of my book.


  2. Teachers never die …


    • Dave, That’s definitely true. They just become authors.


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