Today, we're going to talk about one of the simplest ways to improve your writing: being more specific.
Look at your piece. Find a sentence. What can be more specific? Look especially at the nouns and verbs.
"Often our evening meals were interrupted by random noises outside. We would look out the back door to discover our dog in the pool."
First, look at the nouns/pronouns:
- meals = suppers
- noises = swishes
- door = screen
- dog = poodle
That would change the passage above to "Often our evening suppers were interrupted by random swishes outside. We would look out the back screen to discover our poodle in the pool."
Next, I can look at my verbs:
Now, I get "[o]ften our evening suppers were disrupted by random swishes outside. We would glance out (still thinking of changing that) the back screen to discover our poodle in the pool."
Now, I look at my adjectives and adverbs as well. Could they sound better with my new nouns/verbs?
After these thoughts, my first rewrite looks like this:
"Often our summer suppers were disrupted by subtle swishes from outside. A gaze out the screen door revealed our poodle wandering in the pool."
I like the sound better here, but I cannot "see" what's happening. Now I try to think in images and actions. When you think in images and actions, you often suddenly get a lot more words.
"During our summer supper, my little brother's eyes slide past his golden corn, dripping margarine between its two corn cob spears. Mouth still open, he turns toward the curtains where subtle swishes waft in from the backyard. Mom sweeps the sheers aside and chokes on a laugh. We all rush to the screen to discover our aging poodle wandering in the wading pool, belly inches from the water. She glances back to us as if to say, 'What? I thought it was my turn now.'"
Oops, though. I'm still missing something. I've gotten more specific in my images, but not more specific in my character.
I think back to the intelligences. The personal intelligences! Dinner in my family is about interactions. Time to put those in and characterize these people.
"During our summer supper, my little brother's eyes slide past his golden corn, dripping margarine between its two corn cob spears. Mouth still open, he turned toward the curtains where subtle swishes wafted in from the backyard. He's always noticed everything first, from the fire in the kitchen to the boys in the driveway for my sister.
"'What's that?' he asked.
"Mom swept over to the door. Late as always and still moving things to the table, she hadn't even sat down yet. She brushed the sheers aside and chokes on a laugh. We all rushed to the screen to discover our aging poodle wandering in the wading pool, belly inches from the water. She glanced back to us as if to say, 'What? You got your chance. It's my turn now.'"
It will need more revision later--I know I have repetitive words here and in earlier portions of the piece, but this is a good example of getting more specific in a revision.