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.