Packing Punch – Using Power Verbs To Increase Impact

You never see someone trying to knock down a door with just an itty bitty little tap. Nope! They karate chop that door with their foot because they know that unless they apply enough force, the door isn’t going anywhere.

Sometimes in our writing we try to make an impact on our readers using passive or tired verbs. They lack impact too. Time to try to mix it up a bit and maximize the impact you have on your readers.

Read the following sentence:

Emily was walking on the sidewalk when out of nowhere came a cyclist and bumped her to the ground.

How can we tweak this sentence to pack more punch?

*Start by looking for the passive verbs. Passive verbs are usually preceded by a form of the word ‘is’ and refers to something being done. In the sentence above we see  ‘was walking’. This is an example of a passive verb. Let’s change it.

Emily skipped along the sidewalk. (Now we have replaced the passive and added a bit of feeling to the verb. Everything is happy.)

*Rearrange words to maximize the action. Starting with a prepositional phrase or nonaction at the beginning of the sentence makes it weaker. Let’s change it.

Emily skipped along the sidewalk. A cyclist came out of nowhere and bumped her to the ground. (By putting the noun first we see the action right when we get to the sentence.)

*Replace weak verbs with more powerful ones and flavor with visual imagery. Look for words that you overuse or are commonplace and replace them with words that create a visual image. Let’s try it.

Emily skipped along the sidewalk. A cyclist barreled over the curb and slammed her body to the pavement.

This is a very basic revision. How can you add to this to make the imagery and verbs come alive on the page? Try it out below.


About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

6 thoughts on “Packing Punch – Using Power Verbs To Increase Impact

  1. Very good. Will have to come back after lunch and see if I can get my brain working on the homework. 🙂

  2. Huge difference here, Michelle! Thanks for the example that will help us perk up our own writing.

    Here’s my two cents:
    Emily skipped along the uneven sidewalk. A black-clad cyclist barreled over the curb and slammed her facedown on the trash littered pavement.

  3. Michelle Lim says:

    Looks great, Patti! I love the “slammed her facedown”, now I get a clearer picture.

  4. Emily skipped along the sidewalk, deliberately stepping on each crack. Break your momma’s back. Break your momma’s back. She was so caught up in the old saying she barely saw the hooded cyclist jump the curb before he slammed into her. Her body spiraled over the cycle and landed squarely between two sections of the sidewalk.

  5. Michelle Lim says:

    Love this, the break your mamma’s back part…very clever!

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