On Being Specific

Let's dive in and get specific. I want to take a moment to talk about specificity.

Fiction is powerful and effective for the reader when we are specific, not general.

We could say the guy drove his car into the pond, but it's better for the reader to say, "Sam Hall drove his red Miata into Mendon Pond."

QUESTION: Which one gives you the strongest picture in your mind?

As you go through the lessons, I encourage you to search for specific words to make your stories rock.

One last thing.

Something I noticed that beginning writers do is list everything in their prose, every single detail.

As an example: I was reading a first draft today from one of my clients.

Her main character was a clothing designer, very fabulous and outrageous. It was fun to know that she was a clothing designer, but then when she listed all the designs. My eyes glazed over. I stopped paying attention, and I stopped caring.

Her prose was so detailed that I did not understand what I was reading because she listed the ingredients, but really you want to capture the flavor.

"Capture the flavor, don't list the ingredients."

(A saying I created that lives on my wall.)

Readers want to know the telling detail.

In your first drafts maybe list all the ingredients, but when it comes to editing you need to answer this question:

What am I really trying to say here?

What is the specific flavor you want to convey?


What is the main flavor of your book?

Get specific: Use flavor, smell, visual, or tactile related words. Go for the visceral. Have fun with it.

Share that with us in the comments below.

Complete and Continue