If you write the sentence "I broke the mirror," you've written a descriptive verb. If you substitute "shattered," "cracked," "fractured" or "split" as your verb, you've created a more vivid image in the reader's mind. A vivid verb is one that creates a more complete, distinctive mental picture for the reader.
Where to Find Vivid Verbs
You can find vivid verbs to substitute for ordinary ones in Roget's Thesaurus. This invaluable tool provides multiple synonyms for more colorful, strong and believable imagery in your writing. Another excellent tool is the "Other Ways to Say" poster series, which lists at a glance a number of options. High schools and universities fill their websites with helpful resources to achieve vividness. Los Medanos College, for example, publishes a chart with 100 vivid verbs used to substitute the word "said."
Read and Write for Vivid Verbs
Read all you can to discover vivid verbs. William Shakespeare, to name one author, invented numerous vivid verbs, such as "besmirched," "swagger," "bump" and "rant." Finally, write deliberately for vividness: let your "I said" become "I bellowed," and your "I did" become "I performed, I produced, I succeeded."
Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.