Hello, everyone. Paul here. As you might have noticed, I have been writing a lot about Scrivener and the book Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction. In case you’re wondering, I’m not marketing for either one. What I am doing, hopefully, is passing along information that I have learned and read that might help you in your writing journey. Feel free to leave me a comment, and let me know what you think.
Today’s post will focus on a topic from Many Genres, One Craft: concrete nouns. This part of the book was written by Jason Jack Miller. Jason is the husband to my friend, adjunct professor at Seton Hill University’s MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program, and fellow author, Heidi Ruby Miller. Jason, too, is adjunct creative writing faculty at Seton Hill. Now, I’ll never do as good of job of talking about concrete nouns as Jason (for that you’ll have to buy the book), but I will do my best to convey what I learned.
According to Cambridge Dictionaries Online, concrete nouns are: nouns that refer to a real physical object. Most of us already use concrete nouns. I mean would you really describe pyramid as a structure with a triangular base that has angled sides rising into a point? I don’t think so. My advice is to take concrete nouns one step further. Use concrete nouns to define your setting. Own it. Concrete nouns will allow you to show the reader, not tell. Let’s return to the pyramid example, shall we? How would the setting of your book change if you referred to your pyramid as the Great Pyramid? Would your setting change if you called it the Pyramide du Louvre? Without typing another word, your reader would conjure up images of Egypt when reading the Great Pyramid. On the other hand, Paris, France comes to mind with the Pyramide du Louver. See how concrete nouns can define your setting, and in turn, your story?
It’s not necessary to use actual places or things either. I wish I had read this book before I finished my latest book, Lionel Goes to Camp. In it, Lionel goes to Camp Bonine, which is surrounded by woods. I believe I could have saved a lot of heartache trying to show and not tell what the woods were like by utilizing concrete nouns. Sure, I could have kept the camp as Camp Bonine, but if I would have referred to the surrounding woods as the Neverending Woods (a bit generic, I know, but you get the point), or the Fifty Pine Forest my readers would have had an immediate image of the woods without another word.
Okay, that’s enough for now. I highly recommend picking up Many Genres, One Craft to read more about concrete nouns. Mr. Miller has some great suggestions on how to pick out and develop concrete nouns. I, for one, will continue to read and learn from it. I will also study concrete nouns in every book I read to improve my knowledge and usage of them in my own writing. I hope you found this helpful. Until next time, keep on reading!
Paul R. Hewlett