Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com
When I feel like my writing looks as lazy as my fat cat, and I need to feel inspired, I reach for Writing Down The Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. The book perches on a shelf in my writing room, just a few feet away, its words buzzing through the dog-eared pages, singing to me, begging me to dig deeper into the layers of my story.
Natalie’s chapter titles are silly but creative, and the content in each one serves a different purpose. Today, I visit the BE SPECIFIC chapter and think of you. This chapter has a little tip that can add so much to your stories. Maybe you’re already doing this, but if you’re not maybe you will.
Let me show you.
What’s wrong with these sentences?
She reached for the flower in the window sill.
The ants marched up the tree.
The car sped down the street.
The river gurgled.
A bird hopped in the road.
There’s really nothing wrong with these sentences except they’re a little boring and rather short. But if I change one word in each sentence and make it more specific you will get a better image right away. Let me try.
She reached for the red geranium in the window sill.
The ants marched up the old oak tree.
The Jaguar sped down the street.
The Tippecanoe River gurgled.
A bluejay dug for a worm.
Can you see the objects clearer? Don’t you agree that using specific nouns instantly makes the writing richer?
Natalie Golberg says, “When we know the name of something, it brings us closer to the ground. It takes the blur out of our minds; it connects us to the earth. If I walk down the street and see “dogwood,” “forsythia,” I feel more friendly toward the environment. I am noticing what is around me and can name it. It makes me more awake.”
Take a look around you each day. Learn the names of the trees in your yard, what season they bloom, when they shed their leaves. Study what’s around you, learn specific names of cars, cheese, dogs, plants, flowers, and use them in your writing.
Leave me your SPECIFIC noun example in the comment section. And check out Natalie’s book and her website. Maybe you’ll get invited to join her in Paris at her next writing retreat.