Vivid verbs show (vividly) rather than tell.
These verbs help show what’s happening mentally or physically to a character.
They paint a picture in your reader’s mind.
What is a vivid verb?
A vivid verb is a descriptive verb, which allows you to create interest and even excitement in your writing.
A captivating story
Have you ever read a book that stayed with you? One that you carry with you in your thoughts and it helps you interpret the world a bit better?
For me this book was Don’t Call Me SugarBaby! written by Dorothy Joan Harris and published in 1991. It’s based on the true story of her friend’s daughter who developed childhood onset diabetes.
Although my life hadn’t been touched by the disorder, I found the book compelling and heart-wrenching. The story allowed me to gain perspective on what it might be like to experience this life-altering condition, and the many changes and challenges it presents.
I’ve always been an avid reader and yet not many books stayed with me like this one. What made the difference? This story painted a vivid picture in my mind. Even though I was young, it allowed me to feel and visualize the main character’s fear and confusion over her symptoms, her panic and helplessness as she experienced low blood sugar, and her hope and determination as she learned what was wrong and discovered how to manage her health.
There are many ways to learn about this topic (and any other topic), but there’s something about storytelling that stays with us. And vivid verbs are the secret sauce for bringing stories to life.
Two examples of vivid verbs
What makes a sentence interesting is subjective. However, there are many common verbs that English-speakers are used to using so they’re not as powerful.
When choosing verbs, go for the ones that best describe what your subject is doing or feeling. Are they looking or staring? Are they walking or gliding? Are they finding or discovering?
Here are two examples of how you can spice up your writing with vivid verbs.
Penelope ate her lunch.
This is great information, we know what’s happening! But, do we care?
Let’s try again.
Racing to her seat, Penelope scarfed down her peanut butter and pickle sandwich.
Wow, what is happening here? What’s the rush Penelope? Where are you off to today? Is peanut butter and pickles a good combination? I have questions. I’d better keep reading.
The cat meowed.
Again, this is an informative sentence. But can we paint a more vivid picture for our readers?
The scraggly cat brushed against the stranger’s legs, looked up and let out a hungry meow.
This adds a bit more color. Now you can hear what type of meow this was. Is the cat lost? Why is he so hungry? Is this stranger going to give him something to eat? With a few improvements, we’re on our way to using vivid verbs.
I hope this brief tutorial helps you better understand how to strenghten your sentences by choosing vivid verbs. Simple, but not always easy.