Showing details in your writing isn’t just some annoying comment that agents, editors, and writing coaches and teachers paste into every student’s work.
You can see it now, right?
Big red letters. Loopy script. Maybe an exclamation point:
We do this not to be annoying (well, most of us), but because it’s important.
And we want readers to understand the world that we’re building on the page and be interested in it.
As Stephen Wilbers says,
“You are more likely to make a definite impression on your reader if you use specific, rather than abstract, words. Rather than ‘We were affected by the news,’ write ‘We were relieved by the news’ or ‘We were devastated by the news.’ Use words that convey precisely and vividly what you are thinking or feeling. Compare ‘Cutting down all those beautiful old trees really changed the appearance of the landscape’ with ‘In two weeks, the loggers transformed a ten thousand-acre forest of old growth red and white pine into a field of ruts and stubble.’
Here, take this example:
The man’s face was happy.
Can you think of ways to make that more specific?
A smile slowly formed on Shaun’s ruddy face, lifting the corners of his eyes with the movement.
There’s a difference there, right?
There’s a great quick MasterClass blog post that tells writers four ways to add those concrete details to our narratives.
- Making the initial sentence abstract and the remainder of the sentences in a paragraph concrete. I’m not into this really.
- Use the senses—hearing, sight, touch, smell, taste. Let the reader smell diesel if the scene is on the side of the highway, taste the bitter coffee in the coffee shop, etc.
- Be super specific and concrete like I just mentioned.
- Remember to describe people and setting and action in a way that your reader can imagine. Don’t just say, “He sat under a tree.” Say, “He folded his legs beneath him, leaning on the gnarled trunk of the willow, its bark rough against the skin of his back, the tendrils flitting down—a perfect place to rest or maybe to hide.”
Nordquist, Richard. “Specificity in Writing.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/specificity-words-1691983.
Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 28). Exercise in Writing With Specific Details. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/exercise-in-writing-with-specific-details-1692404
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