Saturday, May 7, 2011
Many Genres Writing Tip from Jason Jack Miller
EDUCATIONAL TIP FOR WRITING:
WHAT ARE CONCRETE NOUNS?
Concrete nouns help authoritative authors establish dominion over setting by showing readers that the action isn’t taking place in a fluffy, generic anywhere. Concrete nouns show without telling. Time period, seasons, political climate, socio-economic situations and social mores can all be demonstrated by the nouns an author utilizes to animate his settings. Timons Esaias, a mentor in Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction program, says that "every concrete noun paints a picture".
WHY SHOULD I USE CONCRETE NOUNS?
Being more specific with nouns can transform your prose into a much more concise and believable product. If nothing else, let this lesson provide a more systematic approach for writers who have yet to develop their own method of formulating vocabularies for their projects.
HOW DO I USE CONCRETE NOUNS?
If a reader has ever been to a place a writer hasn’t, it’s evident to the reader almost immediately. Authenticity is tough to fake, but good writers do it all the time. And they do it by thoroughly researching subjects to provide themselves with a vocabulary of the region and culture they are writing about.
Make your own, extensive lists of concrete nouns. Jump into the book knowing how characters speak, where their parents went to high school, what they ate on Fridays growing up, how they describe local weather phenomena, what their neighbor’s favorite sport is. It may seem excessive, but by creating your own, extensive vocabulary for your novel you can leave much of the telling out, and stick to showing.
Among the nouns your list should include are:
Colloquialisms - a regional way of speaking
Slang - less regional and more about social groups
Local culture, holidays, and customs
Local food, drink, and restaurants
Famous events in local history
Stereotypes and archetypes
Place names and local landmarks
This exercise isn’t meant to be totally inclusive or even mandatory. It’s a starting point for compiling concrete nouns that should be used throughout a story to make the setting more vivid and authentic. The checklist should be fluid and amendable, and writers should feel free to adapt as they see fit.
Articles in MGOC: "Painting Your Setting with Concrete Nouns", "Setting Limits: Working in Small Spaces", "Magical Realism as Genre: Or, Waiter, There's an Angel in My Soup", "Essential Magical Realism"
Other Work: The Devil and Preston Black
You can order Many Genres, One Craft, edited by Michael A. Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller, through any of your favorite book sellers, including Amazon.