Concrete Detail

Erika Hayes, Author – Write like a reader, read like a writer and edit like a beast!


When I was in school, we had to choose from a list of books and write a literary analysis of the book. I had already read the books on the list that interested me.  I asked my professor to recommend which of the remaining books on the list he would recommend.  He suggested I try the book by Joyce Carol Oates.

While I am not an Oates fan,  the book A Fair Maiden was memorable because of my memory of the vivid detail in the senses.  That book taught me one thing other than confirmation that I am not a fan of Ms. Oates, it the importance of sensory detail.  More than any romance book I have ever read.  I did find that I was able to put myself in the scene because of the great sensory and concrete details used by the author.

It is that idea that gave me the desire to observe how things feel against my skin.  Having a list like this can add to your growing list of ways to describe how a character experiences his/her world.  I don’t want to get bogged down in sensory details but think of it this way. If your character is in the trunk of a car, and there is a blanket it can add a sense of dread. (Will my captor be wrapping me in the blanket, plastic tarp?) It can give him/her a focal point in a closet as a child.  Blankets are usually meant for comfort, but not always.  Try describing your blanket focusing on how a person would “feel” when it touches their fingertips.

I am writing a character’s emotional scar. Please note: This is slightly graphic. Not all blankets are a comfort.

XXXXXXXXX – Emotional Scar 

It should be a comfort. The fuzz rolls under my fingers as I glide my hand across its surface.  The dirty, dingy microfiber is an invitation to him.  I slide my scarred naked body closer to the wall sparks ignite tiny shocks burn my flesh.  The chain clanks my wrist still bleeds I try to become the soft spread beneath me, today maybe he won’t see me. The groaning of the bed takes his weight.  I push my mind to feel only the soft fibers lulling my skin.  The pain above me contrasts deeply with the gentle embrace I rest upon.  My nails jagged rip into the microfibers as I push my screams down into the abyss.  The moment is over as he grunts like a greedy swine.   I coast my fingers across the spongy threads that hold days of dried tears.  I have no more to offer, nothing more can be absorbed in the weave.   He stands and leaves,  I gather myself into the cushions of the folds. Hot with disgust I pull myself up and swallow my hatred for that damn blanket. 

In this piece, my protagonist is confused by the fact that a blanket should bring her comfort but it only brings more pain.  This EIO allowed me to contrast the soft comfort of a blanket with a horror that too many people have experienced.


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