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Writing

How to Use Concrete Details to Enhance Your Writing

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Feb 4, 2020 • 2 min read

In order to create a compelling story, you need to put images in your readers’ minds that help them visualize the action. In other words, you need to infuse your writing with concrete details.

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What Are Concrete Details?

A concrete detail is a descriptive detail grounded in specificity. Why do stories need specific details? Because clarity and specificity trigger a personal response from readers. When writers provide concrete examples, persuasive writing becomes more convincing, stories become more engaging, and characters become more vivid and lifelike.

As opposed to abstract language—which describes people, settings, and events on a conceptual level—concrete language evokes clear images in a reader’s mind. The most sophisticated writing contains a balanced mix of concrete language and abstract ideas. Clear, concrete details are essential for writing engaging prose.

Example of Concrete Details

In the writing process, adding concrete details is about making precise word choices that evoke vivid imagery. For instance, the following abstract description is abstract and vague:

The tree was a tower of mystery, lurking in eerie dread with atramentous, abyssal depths.

Rewritten with concrete details, it can become the following:

The tree had gnarled branches and deep black holes in its trunk.

The second sentence is shorter and simpler, and as a piece of writing, it is also more concrete. It clearly describes the tree, while the first sentence leaves you guessing about what the tree actually looks like.

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4 Ways to Use Concrete Details in Your Writing

It is refreshingly easy to make your writing more concrete. Here are a few writing tips that show you how to use concrete details in your writing:

  1. In each body paragraph of an essay, make your topic sentence conceptual and your commentary sentences concrete. Get your big ideas out in the first sentence of each paragraph, and then fill out the paragraph with detail. If you want to, you can switch back to the conceptual for the paragraph’s concluding sentence.
  2. Lean on sensory details. The key senses are sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. You can easily create concrete descriptions by evoking these senses. If you’re writing a short story where the main character drinks a cup of coffee, describe that coffee. Tell your reader about its aroma, its color, its temperature.
  3. Paint pictures with words. If you’re describing a person, item, setting, or action, ask yourself whether a reader would be able to visualize your subject in their minds. If not, revise your sentence, adding key words that paint a full picture of what you’re describing.
  4. Provide specific examples. If you want to be certain that a reader will understand a concept, follow it up by providing an example of what it is you’re talking about. For instance, if you’re writing about how the concept of the “hero’s journey” manifests in literature and film, include a sentence that highlights famous stories like Harry Potter or Star Wars that adhere to the format. Or if you’re trying to describe a personal experience from childhood, describe a specific activity you did with your best friend.

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