Visceral Verbs for Writing

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what discoveries we can find!

To me, one of the challenges in writing is to depict a character’s inner reactions on the page. Instead of telling the reader that someone in your novel is scared, show their visceral reactions by telling us how their gut twisted, their ears heated, their mouth went dry, etc. Show their body language as they cross their arms, slow their gait, etc.

The best authors do this extremely well, finding fresh and engaging ways to express the character’s emotions and even give the reader many of those same reactions.

I recently purchased a book I’d been eyeing for some time: The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. If you’ve not picked it up, I highly recommend this book. It details body language and physiological responses that people experience with different emotions like anger, anxiety, disgust. I can tell that this easy-to-read reference book will become a stand-by on my shelf (my Nook shelf, but whatever).

But I sometimes struggle with verbs to show how a character’s gut, heart, lungs, shiver, shudder, insides, whatever react to an emotion-producing stimulus. So I started to make a list.

Today I’ve decided to share that list with you and ask you to contribute your own words. Of course, not all of these verbs work with every body part, but it’s a reference to draw from if you need it.

Words in text cloud

Ache

Billow

Bite

Calm

Chill

Churn

Clench

Close

Coil

Collapse

Ease

Echo

Empty

Explode

Fall

Grasp

Grip

Hammer

Heat

Hit

Hover

Itch

Kink

Knot

Nestle

Pluck

Prick

Pull

Punch

Race

Rake

Rip

Rumble

Scoop

Scorch

Scratch

Settle

Shake

Shiver

Shovel

Shut

Sink

Sizzle

Slam

Slap

Snake

Sneak

Squeeze

Sting

Tear

Throb

Thump

Turn

Twist

Warm

Wrap

Wrench

Wriggle

So that’s my list of 58 visceral verbs. What words would you add?

If you want to learn more about how to write visceral responses, my best suggestion is to check out Margie Lawson’s courses, like Empowering Character’s Emotions. She also offers it as a lecture packet.

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12 thoughts on “Visceral Verbs for Writing

  1. So there’s another book I’ve never heard of that seems worth checking into. i’m getting Wired for Story from the library. Can’t wait to read them.

    Nice list. How about devour,vibrated?

  2. I love The Emotion Thesaurus! I refer to it when I get stuck so I don’t use the same tired words. I recently bought the lecture packet for Margie Lawson’s “Empowering Character’s Emotions” because I have revisions and it’s time for me to dig deeper. (Thanks for the encouragement to do that!)

    The word picture you created with your list is gorgeous. 🙂

  3. OMG, the Emotion Thesaurus is ah-ma-zing! I use it all the time. As soon as I sit down to write I pull it and my 40 pound dictionary from their shelf and just keep them on the desk next to me. I also have the notes from Mary Buckham’s body language class sitting there so I can always find something better to say on the page.

    I love your list. Can’t think of anything off the top of my head to add.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  4. These are beautiful visceral verbs! I have a list that is similar, but yours is so much better! love it. And thank you for the kind words about the ET. I am so happy it’s going to help you as you write!

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