Posted by: anitanolan | October 30, 2009

Show, Don’t Tell: Use Specificity

Specificity can help describe your character.  Don’t say car when you can use Ford Mustang or Corvette Stingray or Ford Taurus.  Each of these cars would be driven by a different kind of character, so picking a specific type of car helps define your character.

Look what happens when I add specificity to yesterday’s example.  Before: He was tall with dark hair and brown eyes.  He had a scar over one eye and wore jeans and a gray tee shirt.

After: Jack was six feet tall, with coal-black hair and eyes as deep brown as dark chocolate.  A scar sliced his left eyebrow in two.  The hole in his jeans allowed the pale skin of Jack’s left knee to poke through when he shuffled along the sidewalk.  His gray tee shirt advertised Crud, his favorite band.

See how much more information I can provide by being specific?  In this second description, we know a little more about Jack, just through the specifics in the description of what he’s wearing and how he’s walking.

Use specificity when describing setting too.  Use roses or daisies or peonies instead of flower; use blue jay or seagull or great horned owl instead of bird.  Using specific words helps the reader to visualize the story.

Tomorrow:  Eliminate the Author’s Filter

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