Use concrete details to make writing more vivid

When writing descriptions, make them concrete. That is, make them tangible by appealing to the five senses of sight, smell, sound, taste and touch.

For example, the sentence The street was mysterious is abstract rather than concrete. It’ exposition and uses passive voice. It’s bland.

You could instead write A thick fog shrouded the street, diminishing the lights to mere auras that seemingly hung suspended in the air. By giving concrete details that appeal to the sense of sight, this sentence infers mystery.

Concrete details work better than an abstraction because they:
• Draw readers emotionally into the scene – Abstract words are vague, and when using them you always risk readers bringing their own imagined concrete details to the story.
• Show point of view character’s emotional mood – Abstract words usually are too general; there are many degrees of happiness and anger, for example. Concrete details, however, better delineate the degree to which a character feels an emotion.

Look back at passages you’ve written, especially those that you consider flat or vanilla. Circle the abstract words. Now rewrite the passage by providing concrete details that show the abstraction. After the rewrite, you’ll find that the passage reads much better.