Create Pictures in Your Writing with Strong Nouns | Duncan Koerber | Skillshare

Create Pictures in Your Writing with Strong Nouns

Duncan Koerber, University Professor

Play Speed
  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x
5 Lessons (18m)
    • 1. Introduction to the Course

      1:31
    • 2. Nouns

      4:38
    • 3. Weak Nouns

      4:04
    • 4. Pronouns

      2:32
    • 5. Unclear Pronouns

      5:28

Project Description

The most important nouns in your writing are people. But writing well about people requires great detail. Readers need to see and hear the people you know.

This project requires you to choose one person in your life who you know well. With that person in mind, write what we call a Hierarchy of Detail. A Hierarchy of Detail is a simple point-form list of facts about a person that will help you gather details that you can use when writing.

List at least four details about the person in each of the four categories below:

Action: List the person’s regular actions. People’s actions take precedence over all other details in defining their characters. Behaviour says a lot about someone.

Examples: If you’re writing a story about your parents, you may write that they travel regularly or that they clean the house every single day. If you’re writ- ing a story about a good friend, you may write that he constantly checks his smartphone or wears revealing clothing. These actions tell us something. We cannot deny that these people do these acts.

Evidence of Action: List evidence of people’s past actions. People leave “evidence” around their homes, cars, and schools that says a lot about them (for example, posters on walls, clothes on the floor, documents all over the desk).

Examples: If you’re writing a story about your brother, you may write down that he owns a super-modified Honda Civic with rear spoilers and a big rum- bling tailpipe. If you’re writing a story about your grandmother, you may describe the stuffed taxidermy animals that hang on her living room walls. In the story, we won’t have to see the characters modify the Honda or hang dead animals on walls. But the evidence exists for the reader to interpret, and it is a good indicator of your subject’s character.

Speech: List the catchphrases or unique ways in which the person speaks. Stories demand dialogue. Readers love to hear people talk. But dialogue should sound natural. Every person speaks somewhat differently. Try to reproduce this accurately.

Examples: If you’re writing about your sister, you may write down that she always says like or oh my god. If you’re writing about your uncle, you may write down that he always says you only live once when his siblings say they’re wor- ried about his skydiving and bungee-jumping. If the person speaks in these ways all the time, it’s a fairly good indicator of character. Just like in real life, however, characters’ actions in your stories will speak louder than their words: in other words, your characters may lie or exaggerate.

Reputation: List what other people say about the person. This is the lowest category in the Hierarchy of Detail because it offers the weakest, least reliable evidence. If there is a difference between what a person says he or she is and the reputation, then show it.

A well-crafted Hierarchy of Detail will help you give the people in your writing the respect they deserve: a fulsome characterization.

Student Projects