• enhances reader identification—they’re transported into the action
• provides a sense of time and place, particularly if the story is set in an unfamiliar world
• creates suspense
• reveals relationships better than telling
• offers unique or unusual details and develops feelings of depth and reality
• hints at or reveals motives behind an action.
This doesn’t mean you want to fill the pages with details. Think of capturing an image. Ask yourself, what is the picture I want to capture?
A showing exercise: Here’s something to consider. Below is a list of common nouns. If you color in details, you give readers a vivid picture. A few, well-chosen details make your fiction or nonfiction come alive.
If I tell you that I met the financial guru Warren Buffett and noticed his wristwatch, what picture have I captured? Nothing special, but if I comment that he wears a Timex, a Seiko, or a Rolex, I’m enlarging the picture. (And, yes, it's all right to use brand names provided you spell them correctly.)
Try the exercise below:
Instead of a tree, use elms, oaks, mesquite, or refer to the golden leaves of the maple.
Instead of a soft drink, name it, but describe your pleasure or disgust as you sip or guzzle.
Instead of a car, use __________
Instead of a running shoe, use __________
Instead of breakfast, use __________
By adding the right details, you open readers' understanding and enable them to sense what you see and feel.