Power Words

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Today I’m talking about the most amazing thing I’ve discovered during the past two years in which I’ve been seriously writing: the power of strong words. It’s something I never thought about before I started writing fiction. Consider these two verbs:

* Tugged *

* Jerked *

Each of them is just one word, but think about how much imagery is created with that one little word. Consider the differences each of these verbs evoke.

When I think of the word “tug”, I immediately get the image of someone gently removing something from someone’s hand. But if you use the word “jerk” I get a far angrier image. Much more intense.

There’s emotion behind the words, and an author’s job is to manipulate the reader’s emotion. So think how effective an author could be by simply choosing the right words?

I tend to use a lot of adverbs when I write. It’s how I think; can’t help myself. But I know that when editing time comes, I will need to go in and find power words to replace most of those weak verbs along with their adverb modifiers. Doing this properly allows the reader to evoke a stronger image of the scene, ad that’s one of the things that takes writing to the next level.

Do you have any tips for adding power words to your writing, or are you one of the lucky few who naturally think that way? (If so, I hate you.) Smile 


18 thoughts on “Power Words

    kayspringsteen said:
    February 21, 2011 at 7:59 am

    No, I don’t naturally think this way, and am looking forward to your readers adding their tips. I struggle with this, and my critique partner always makes suggestions that are so much better. Consider synonyms for “walked,” for example: strode makes me think of rapidly crossing a space, stomped shows the character’s anger.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      February 21, 2011 at 8:42 am

      Kay, I received a postcard advertising an author’s book. On the flipside she had added a list of synonyms for the word “walk”. I thought that was genius, and it’s currently taped up on my story board.

      When I do my revisions I make a pass just to look for weak words. When I find one I’ll google search the word along with “power words”. Believe it or not, that usually gives me a few good options of stronger words to choose from. 🙂

    kayspringsteen said:
    February 21, 2011 at 8:46 am

    How do you find your weak words? Do you also have a list of THESE?

    My line editor wrote me a note to go with my edits asking me how it is that I didn’t have a “favorite” word repeating throughout the ms…her comment was “Come one, EVERYONE has a favorite word.” But I somehow manage to weed these out. My problem really is weak words where strong ones would be better and in getting rid of the passive voice, which also is a symptom of weak word usage.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      February 21, 2011 at 8:53 am

      Heh, good point Kay. I can pick out weak words in my manuscript, but that begs the question of whether I’m really getting them all. After all, I don’t know what I might be missing. 🙂

    JC Coy said:
    February 21, 2011 at 8:58 am

    I keep this list handy. This is one of the best resources I’ve run across.


      Rosalie Lario responded:
      February 21, 2011 at 9:06 am

      Sweet list! Thanks for the link. 🙂

      kayspringsteen said:
      February 21, 2011 at 9:08 am

      I just shared this with my network…the shower of thanks you will feel in your heart later today will be from them!

    Ciara Knight said:
    February 21, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Hi, Rosalie. Great post! Margie Lawson has an excellent class on this.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      February 21, 2011 at 9:35 am

      Thanks Ciara. I’ve been cyber-stalking Ms. Lawson because I’ve heard such great things about her classes. There’s one coming up in March that I will hopefully be taking.

        JC Coy said:
        February 21, 2011 at 9:45 am

        Margie’s classes are awesome. Be prepared to do a lot of work and read a ton of material.

        Rosalie Lario responded:
        February 21, 2011 at 9:52 am

        Ah, thanks for the heads-up. 🙂

    Nina Pierce said:
    February 21, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    My online thesaurus and I are best buds! It’s open the whole time I’m typing. No exceptions.

    One of the reasons my first draft takes for-evah is because I can’t just type in a weak verb. (Oh, and how I wish I could.) My mind just wants to find the perfect word … very time consuming. I know this. I’m trying to train my muse to move on and fix in the second draft. LOL! But one word can change the meaning of a whole paragraph.

    Excellent post as always.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      February 21, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      You are so right, Nina. It’s amazing how much difference one word can make. It really can change the emotional feel of the entire scene.

    Caridad Pineiro said:
    February 21, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    I’ve made a list of the “crutch” words that I use and know could be more powerful. I also keep a notebook handy when I’m reading and if there is a word used that I find interesting or is a powerful action word, I write it down. Before I start writing, I review those action words to have them in my brain for when I begin the story.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      February 21, 2011 at 12:50 pm

      Caridad, I also keep a list of my weak words, and boy am I fond of them. 🙂

      I never thought about keeping notes of powerful words while reading. I always dog-ear pages when I come upon phrases in books that I find especially powerful, but I think taking that extra step of writing them down would probably be good for training myself to use strongeer words. Thanks for the great tip!

        Rosalie Lario responded:
        February 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm

        “Strongeer” – it’s like stronger but even more powerful. LOL. 🙂

    Julia Rachel Barrett said:
    February 22, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Power words, what a great concept! I do it, but I’ve always thought of it as using words to describe the emotion implied in the character’s action. For instance, if someone is angry, they aren’t going to trip lightly down the stairs, they will stomp.
    I visualize what my character is feeling and try to translate that into action.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      February 22, 2011 at 5:14 pm

      That’s a great way to do it. I visualize too but my visual editor isn’t as cool as yours. Mine visualizes ‘walking angrily’ and I have to come up with a cooler term later on. 🙂

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