Feel the Power!!!

Ever noticed how some writers have an uncanny ability to toy with your emotions?

Within the span of a few pages, you can go from shaking with excitement to bawling your eyes out to flying into a rage and throwing the book across the room. It’s the hallmark of great writing, proof of mastery of the craft, and the yardstick by which aspiring writers measure their work.

Sure, taking the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride is essential in novels and short stories. They’re all designed to influence the reader in some way as well as make the reader feel a certain way.

So, you might be wondering, how exactly do you do that?

The world is full of people who can scribble down their ideas. But to bring those ideas to life, to make them take up residence in the mind of a reader, lurking in the background, tugging, pulling, and seducing their emotions until they think and feel exactly as you want, THAT’S a rare skill indeed.

Don’t be discouraged though. There’s something that can help every writer obtain that very skill. Pretty easily, I might add too. Just 3 little words…

Use power words.

Let’s go a step further and describe what I mean and deconstruct an example from the great Winston Churchill:

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

Inspiring, right?

Well, there was a lot on the line. Under attack from Germany, Britain was fighting for its survival, and somehow, someway, Churchill had to find a way to inspire his countrymen to greatness.

He chose words. Or, to be more accurate, power words.

Let’s take a look at the passage again, this time with all the power words underlined:

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

Each underlined word makes the audience feel something. In this case, Churchill intermixes words that cause fear, such as “struggle,” “tyranny,” and “terror,” with words that cause hope, such as “strength,” “God,” and “victory.” The last, in particular, is repeated over and over, practically drilling the emotion into the minds of the audience.

It’s no accident. Smart speakers, as well as their speechwriters, sprinkle their speeches with carefully-chosen power words, drawing the audience from one emotion to another as skillfully as any novelist or screenwriter.

Granted, that’s not all they do. The best writers use an entire tool chest of techniques to create emotion, and power words are only one such tool.

But there’s good news.

For beginning writers, power words are one of the easiest tools to master. Unlike many storytelling strategies which can take years of practice to master, you can start sprinkling power words into your writing, and you’ll notice an immediate lift in the quality of your prose.

So let’s take a look at some power words that will hopefully help you in your writing:

Fear is without a doubt the most powerful emotion for grabbing and keeping an audience’s attention. It’s effective. Granted, you can overdo it, but in my opinion, most writers don’t use these types of words nearly enough. They really do connect with people.

Agony                    Bomb                    Deadly                  Fooled

Apocalypse            Buffoon                 Death                    Frantic

Armageddon          Bumbling              Destroy                 Frightening

Assault                   Cadaver               Devastating           Gambling

Backlash                Catastrophe         Disastrous              Gullible

Beating                   Caution                Drowning                Hack

Beware                   Collapse               Dumb                     Hazardous

Blinded                    Corpse                 Embarrass             Hoax

Blood                       Crazy                   Fail                        Holocaust

Bloodbath                Cripple                 Feeble                   Horrific

Bloodcurdling           Crisis                   Fired                      Hurricane

Bloody                      Danger                Fool                       Insidious

Invasion                    Plunge                Jail                        Jeopardy

Lawsuit                     Looming              Lunatic                   Lurking

Meltdown                  Nightmare            Painful                   Pale

Mired                         Panic                   Peril                       Pitfall

Mistake                      Plague                 Plummet                Poison

Murder                      Pummel                Poor                       Prison

Pus                            Risky                   Scary                      Scream

Reckoning                 Searing               Shatter                    Shellacking

Refugee                     Silly                     Slaughter                Slave

Revenge                     Smash                Strangle                   Stupid

Suck                           Teetering             Terror                     Terrorist

Tailspin                       Toxic                    Trap                        Vaporize

Tank                            Victim                  Volatile                    Vulnerable

Targeted                      Warning               Worry                      Wounded

Give your readers a pep talk and use these power words to get them charged up again!

Amazing                    Defiance                  Miracle                 Spirit

Audacity                     Delight                     Pluck                  Staggering

Backbone                   Devoted                   Happy                 Stunning

Belief                          Excited                     Heart                   Surprising

Blissful                        Eye-opening            Hero                     Triumph

Bravery                       Faith                         Hope                    Uplifting

Breathtaking               Fearless                   Jaw-dropping        Valor

Cheer                          Fulfill                        Jubilant                  Victory

Conquer                      Grateful                    Magic                    Wonderful

Courage                       Grit                          Sensational            Wondrous

Daring                          Guts                         Spectacular

Love/Lust is probably the second most powerful emotion. Here’s some power words that will leave your readers wanting more.

Brazen                    Lascivious                  Scandalous               Sweaty

Crave                      Lick                             Sensual                    Tantalizing

Depraved                 Lonely                        Sex                           Tawdry

Dirty                          Lust                          Shameless                 Thrilling

Exposed                   Naked                        Sinful                         Uncensored

Forbidden                 Naughty                     Sleazy                        Wanton

Hypnotic                   Provocative                 Steamy                      Whip

As writers, sometimes our job to fan the flames. Kind of like George R. R. Martin when he starts killing off some of our beloved characters in Game of Thrones! By using the power words below, you can connect with people’s anger, and slowly but surely, you can work them into a frenzy.

Abuse                     Disgusting                  Maul                        Sick and tired

Arrogant                  Evil                            Money-grubbing       Smug

Ass kicking              Force-fed                   No good                   Sniveling

Backstabbing          Foul                            Obnoxious                Snob

Beat down               Hate                           Payback                    Snooty

Bullshit                     Know it all                  Pound                        Snotty

Bully                         Lies                            Preposterous             Stuck up

Coward                     Loathsome                Punish                       Underhanded

Crooked                    Loser                         Revolting

Crush                        Lying                          Ruthless

Remember when you were a kid, and someone told you NOT to do something? From that point on, you could think about little else, right?

Offer your readers the forbidden fruit.

The truth is, we’re all fascinated by the mysterious and forbidden. It’s like it’s programmed into our very nature. So why not tap into that programming?

Whenever you need to create curiosity, sprinkle these power words throughout your writing, and readers won’t be able to help being intrigued.

Backdoor                   Concealed                 Forgotten               Private

Banned                      Confessions              Hidden                   Secrets

Behind the Scenes     Confidential               Illegal                    Smuggled

Black Market              Controversial             Insider                  Unauthorized

Blacklisted                  Covert                        Lost                      Withheld

Bootleg                       Cover-up                   Off-limits

Censored                   Forbidden                   Outlawed

Yes, this is a pretty big list, but the crazy part is there are still tons of power words out there. You probably could never make a complete list of them. Hopefully, though, this helps give your writing that added dazzle to grab your reader’s attention and spark their emotion into overdrive.

I would love to know if anyone else has some power words to add! As always, thank you ahead of time for reading and commenting!

Happy Writing Ya’ll!!

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