A verb avalanche is a highly engaging description that causes you to see, hear, and feel action all around you. You dodge each tumbling word-boulder only to leap, jump, roll and scramble to dodge the mountainside of word-boulders that follow close behind it.
causes, see, hear, feel, dodge, tumbling, leap, jump, roll, scramble, dodge, follow
That example included 12 verbs among 43 total words. Roughly 1 in every 3 1/2 words was a verb.
Verb Avalanches are built from verbs: action words.
“Thorin stepped up and drew the key on its chain from round his neck. He put it to the hole. It fitted and it turned! Snap! The gleam went out, the sun sank, the moon was gone, and evening sprang into the sky.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, chapter 11
stepped up, drew, put, fitted, turned, Snap! went out, sank, was gone, sprang
10 verbs among 43 total words. Roughly 1 in 4 words was a verb.
(Snap! is onomatopoeia, a word that imitates, resembles, or suggests the sound that it describes. When constructing a word avalanche, onomatopoeia counts as a verb.)
Here are some other examples of onomatopoeia:
Machine noises — honk, beep, vroom, clang, zap, boing.
Impact sounds — boom, crash, whack, thump, bang.
Sounds of the voice — shush, giggle, growl, whine, murmur, blurt, whisper, hiss.
“Jacob slipped into the shadows, ducked down a hallway, climbed a wall, and hid in the shadows above the throne room.”
slipped, ducked, climbed, hid.
4 verbs among 21 total words. Roughly 1 in 5 words was a verb.
“Jacob was afraid for his friends. He slipped into the shadows, crept over a rooftop, slid down a tree, hurried away from the palace, and ran all the way to Bethlehem.”
– Chris Auer, The Littlest Magi
was afraid, slipped, crept, slid, hurried, ran
6 verbs among 31 total words. Roughly 1 in 5 words was a verb.
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'”
– Jack Kerouac
live, talk, be saved, desirous of everything, yawn, say, burn, burn, burn, exploding, see, pop, goes, ‘Awww!’
14 verbs among 69 total words. Roughly 1 in 5 words was a verb.
“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words
as they tangle with human emotions.”
– James Michener
love, writing, love, swirl, swing, tangle
In this sequence, 2 verbs – writing and swirl – were used as nouns, but we are counting them anyway. Even when used as nouns, verbs have impact.
6 verbs among 17 total words. Roughly 1 in 3 words was a verb.
“The important thing in writing is the capacity to astonish. Not shock – shock is a worn-out word – but astonish.”
– Terry Southern
writing, astonish, shock, shock, astonish.
5 verbs among 19 total words. Roughly 1 in 4 words was a verb.
“I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.”
– Shauna Niequist
sizzles, pops, makes, laugh, want, get, realize, is, meetings (verb/noun), eat, sing, open, wear, stay up, laughing, paint, sleep hard, throw, eat, read, jump, want, make, belly laugh, gave, loves.
26 verbs among 135 total words. Roughly 1 in 5 words was a verb.
Did you notice the pattern? When at least 1 in 5 words is a verb, you have created a description that is sure to gain and hold the attention of the reader, the listener, the customer. You have created a verb avalanche.
Don’t expect to Google this and learn more about it, because I just made it up.
But that doesn’t make it untrue, does it?
Roy H. Williams
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