The Writer’s Canvas – Painting Word Pictures with Nouns

If you want to keep readers turning the pages, engage their five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste.  Learn about concrete and abstract nouns for your writing practice, and watch your writing come alive!

The word “noun” comes from the Latin  “nomen”, which means “name”.  The more clearly we name objects, the better our readers can “see” them in their mind’s eye.

 

Let’s review the basic definitions we learned in school:  Concrete nouns are those that name people, places, and things.  They refer to things that  can be seen, heard, smelled, touched or tasted.  Abstract nouns are those that name ideas, feelings, and concepts – things you can’t see or touch, intangibles.  

Using only abstract nouns keeps us at arm’s length from our stories and characters.  When we introduce concrete nouns, we move into the story and experience it personally.

Now let’s look at some examples of abstract vs. concrete nouns.

Comfort – Abstract noun – This is a wonderful word, but we can’t smell it, taste it, see it, feel it or hear it!  The following story fragment doesn’t do much to engage the reader:

Henry appreciated the comfort provided after his accident.

Let’s find some concrete comfort nouns and see if we can make this scene come alive.

Henry had come so close to drowning. He barely had enough energy to smile as his best friend Melissa wrapped him in a warm quilt, settled him into the spacious armchair, and helped him sip a steaming cup of herbal tea.  He reached out his hand and silently squeezed his thanks.

With this new fragment, the reader can actually begin to see what Harry sees, feel his weak state, taste the scalding tea, experience the warmth of the quilt. This is a scene that engages the senses, invites the reader to participate. The words that are underlined suggested comfort to this particular writer.

Sometimes abstract nouns can be confusingly vague.  “Comfort” means many things to many people. Another way of telling the story of Henry might be totally different.

Henry didn’t know which was more soothing – the fresh linen fragrance of the hospital sheets, the early morning sunlight pouring in the east window, or Nurse Linda’s County Cork accent, reminding him of home. He had survived the midnight crash, and lived to see the first day of spring.

This writer has painted quite a different picture with her choice of words. We, the readers, can smell the sheets, see the sunlight, hear Nurse Linda’s voice.  We are there, with Henry, as he celebrates his survival.

In addition to being concrete or abstract, nouns can also be general or specific.  Here are some examples:

Building – a general, concrete noun

More specific “building” nouns

Skyscraper
Cottage
Warehouse

Even more specific “building” nouns

Taj Mahal
10 Downing Street
Empire State Building

Animal – a general, concrete noun

More specific “animal” nouns

Donkey
Ape
Kitten

Even more specific “animal” nouns

Eeyore
King Kong
Tabby

Relaxation – an abstract noun, doesn’t engage the senses

Concrete “relaxation” nouns

Hammock
Lemonade
Sailboat
Palm trees
Bahamas
Hawaii

As you learn to paint pictures with nouns, watch your writing get stronger and more appealing.

Happy writing!

Most Voted Comments

Avatar
8

Bait

It takes a real talent to tell a story in so few words. What was…


Avatar
6

Endure and Sing

Inspirational piece. Am glad you picked the rat to be the protagonist in your story,…


Avatar
6

Endure and Sing

Such a sweet tale - and with a good moral to the story. I thought…


Avatar
5

Endure and Sing

Wow! This is a good story! Really good to read to little kids, the moral…


Avatar
4

Endure and Sing

Hi Katy, it really does add an extra dimension to hear your story read aloud…


Avatar
4

Endure and Sing

In my neighboring country Denmark, we have the classical storyteller Hans-Christian Andersen. Your sweet story…


Avatar
4

Endure and Sing

A really nice one with a wonderful story line. I can see why this was…


Avatar
4

Endure and Sing

A beautiful story! I was reminded of seeing Paul Potts and Susan Boyle on Britain's…


Avatar
4

Endure and Sing

Your story inspired me to keep going no matter how discouraging it gets. At times…


Avatar
4

Endure and Sing

Thank you so much for the feedback! I pray that the young readers will be…


Avatar
4

Endure and Sing

Thank you for taking the time to comment and convey your thoughts on the story.…


Avatar
4

Endure and Sing

Hi Katy, don't we all feel like the rat in your story at times! We…


Avatar
4

Vows

I must admit it was the picture of the church, with its grave yard, under…


Avatar
3

In Memoriam

It's terrible to lose someone you love and accept that he is not a part…


Avatar
3

The Problem with Women

I think Carrie has said it all. We rest our collective case.  ? 


Avatar
3

The Fisherman and the Sea

A good story with a strong message. The time has come that we should do…


Avatar
3

The Fisherman and the Sea

It is giving me great joy to read such beautiful comments from you.Thank you for…


Avatar
3

Voice.club 2020 Year In Review – OPEN

The New Year has always been a time for reflection, and to focus on what…


Mary Kot
3

Endure and Sing

I wish all of us were more like this little mouse! His confidence and courage…


Avatar
3

Endure and Sing

I'm really glad to hear that! Leena Auckel did an amazing job and I'm so…


Recent Comments


Become a PatronHelp support our family-friendly mission

Contest – CLOSED – Scary

Scroll to Top

Sharing a Post

Why do my friends need to SignIn to read the post I shared?

Actually, this is a voting security feature. Only club members can read posts submitted into a contest. Since anyone reading the story is able to vote (click the Like button), we reserve these capabilities to members who SignIn. Before we implemented this security feature, people were voting multiple times and making the public voting process unfair and out of balance. To fix this, our staff finally decided to allow only members who SignIn to read the stories. Membership is free and easy, and ensures our club is safe, secure, and family-friendly!

Gems Stories are public:  On the other hand the Gem stories are different, since there is no voting on Gems. During a Gem event, your friends and fans can come on and read without a SignIn. This is one of the great advantages of the Gem events.