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Nouns are like fence posts. They have the most importance when they do something, even if it’s no more than to hold barbed wire or display a No Trespassing sign. Your choice of nouns makes a difference in whether your story delivers boring news or a life-changing experience.

  • Use Concrete Nouns.

Readers won’t fall and skin their knees on abstract nouns like disapproval, courage, or sensitivity. Such words exist only in the mind. Since they can’t be recognized with the physical senses, they lead to theoretical scenarios rather than real pictures.

A beginner might write: Fear flowed through his veins. Since the writer senses the character’s fear, readers are expected to feel the same emotion, but they don’t. In the words they read, they need to see, hear, and touch the circumstance that caused the fear.

  • Use Specific Nouns

General terms lack the realism needed to make readers part of the scene. For example: Billy knelt to pet the neighbor’s dog. What breed? A Chihuahua presents a picture different from a Dalamatian. How about a Rottweiler or Doberman Pinscher? To engage readers, give them specific terms that would be important and obvious if they were there.

  1. Matt drove his friend’s vehicle to work. (Was it a car or pickup? A vehicle could be anything on the road, including an eighteen-wheeler or an army tank.) Matt drove his friend’s green Ford Pinto to work.
  2. Trees Tall pines lined both sides of the country lane. (Trees could be anything, including scrawny mesquites and towering redwoods.)