Verbs: Weak vs Strong/Dramatic/Active

to go walking
The use of strong and dramatic verbs adds flavour to your story. Dramatic verbs raise questions, they hint at a story behind them whereas non-dramatic verbs have known outcomes. Strong verbs are descriptive in themselves whereas weak verbs are plain and general.

Examples of non-dramatic verbs:

  • walking
  • reading
  • sleeping

Examples of dramatic verbs:

  • cheating
  • fighting
  • flirting

Examples of strong verbs:

  • pacing
  • perusing

An example of strong active verb writing

Dull: “There is a house on top of the hill.”
So-so: “A house sits on top of the hill.”
Better: “The house perched on top of the hill.”

Verbs for he went

To go (often some type of walking)

  • John backed out of the room.
  • John brushed past them. [note]to push quickly past someone or something[/note]
  • Emma bounded past them. [note]rapidly; by large movements forward.[/note]
  • Emma burst into the room.
  • John crept forward.
  • John dashed home.
  • John driftedover to the dining table.
  • Emma darted forward.
  • John came skidding.
  • John came round for tea.
  • John cantered back to the room. [note]slower than a gallop but faster than a trot[/note]
  • Emma camecrashing into the room.
  • Emma clambered onto the table. [note]To climb with difficulty, especially on all fours; scramble.[/note]
  • The room emptied.
  • John edged along the wall.
  • John edged closer.
  • Emma emerged from the shed.
  • The trees flashed past the windows.
  • Emma flung herself onto her bed.
  • The view flew past the windows.
  • People flooded the room.
  • The eagle is gliding in the air.
  • Emma galloped down the hall.
  • John groped his way along.
  • Emma hovered over the kids.
  • John hurried home.
  • Emma hobbled over to him. [note]o walk or move along haltingly or with difficulty; limp[/note]
  • Emma hurtled along. [note]To move with or as if with great speed[/note]
  • John inched closer.
  • John joined Emma in the living room.
  • Emma jogged to the building.
  • They jostled their way to John. [note]To make one’s way by pushing or elbowing[/note]
  • John lolled around. [note]To move, stand, or recline in an indolent or relaxed manner.[/note]
  • John limped over.
  • Emma came looming up out of the darkness.
  • John marched out of the room.  [note]to proceed directly and purposefully[/note]
  • Emma mingled with the crowd.
  • Emma patrolled the hallway.
  • John passed Jane.
  • John pelted straight to him. [note]To move at a vigorous gait[/note]
  • Emma piled through the door.
  • Emma reached the living room.
  • John ran home.
  • Emma rushed to her side.
  • John rounded the corner.
  • John set off home.
  • Emma shot out of the room.
  • Emma sloped away.
  • John slouched into the room.
  • Emma sprinted over to the door.
  • Emma sprang after him.
  • John stumbled out of the room.
  • Emma scrambled outside.
  • John scurried around the kitchen.
  • John strode into the room.
  • John shrank back into the shadows.
  • John sailed near.
  • John slipped past Jane.
  • John slipped through the clutches.
  • John slithered past the men.
  • John sped past Jane.
  • John staggered backwards.
  • Emma strayed over to John.
  • John stomped flat-footed from the room.
  • Emma stumped around.
  • John stepped nimbly out of reach.
  • John swept about the room.
  • John swaggered over to her.
  • Emma trotted to the sofa.[note]between a walk and a canter in speed[/note]
  • Emma toppled into the room.[note]To push or knock over[/note]
  • John tumbled out of the car.
  • John walked away.
  • Emma whisked off to see him.
  • Emma wandered over to her mom.
  • John went off to see his gran.

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To come to a stop

  • stood transfixed
  • stopped moving

To turn on the spot

  • swung around
  • whisked around = to move someone around rapidly from place to place
  • wheeled round =to turn around quickly; to change direction quickly
  • whirled around = to turn someone or something around quickly

To sit on something

  • Emma mounted her bike.
  • pounced
  • sinking into chair
  • slumped down on the bench

To get up from something

  • John jumped to his feet.
  • Emma leapt onto her feet.
  • John got to his feet.
  • John got up.
  • rocketed upward
  • plunged off
  • sat bolt upright

To open / close

  • Emma pulled the door wide.
  • John slammed the door.
  • Emma swung the door open.
  • Emma tore the box open.
  • John wrenched the door open.
  • pushed door ajar
  • flung the door open

To put away

  • placed down
  • put down
  • pocket it
  • rammed key into the door
  • flopped onto the table
  • sweep
  • Propped

To grab

  • John hooked Jane.
  • Emma gripped the edge.
  • John groped for the door.
  • John seized the cup.
  • Emma snatched the locket.
  • scooped it off the table

To fly

  • drift
  • took flight
  • Fly
  • flutter
  • rise into the air
  • Soar
  • zoom

To look or see

  • John blinked at Emma.
  • John’s blank staring eyes saw nothing.
  • John couldn’t keep his eyes off Emma.
  • John’s eyes fell on Emma.
  • John eyed Emma.
  • John’s eyes were fixed on Emma.
  • Emma examined the artifact.
  • John gazed at Emma.
  • Emma gaped at John.
  • John glared at Emma.
  • John glanced at Emma.
  • John goggled at Emma.
  • John gawped at Emma.
  • John looked at Emma.
  • John’s eyes lingered on the bed.
  • John met her eyes.
  • John noticed Emma.
  • John peered at Emma.
  • Emma spotted the owl.
  • John stared at Emma.
  • John’s eyes slid from Emma to Richard.
  • John spied on Emma.
  • John’s eyes strayed to Emma.
  • Emma squinted at the sun.
  • John tore his eyes away from Emma.
  • John watched Emma.

To Hear

  • listen intently
  • ears pricked
  • muffled
  • eagerly listening

Other interactions with object

  • hoisted / hitched up
  • struck hard
  • prodding

Hall, R. (2014) Writing Vivid Settings.