Flash Fiction: Concrete Details,
Or, Showing vs. Telling
Hey all you lovely people! Today I want us to talk about one of the most crucial aspects of flash fiction and indeed any story: concrete detail.
Concrete detail is what you use as a writer to really build the image of the scene you are setting. Concrete detail is everything, including the kitchen sink. Really. what is the sink made of? Where is it in relation to the oven, the fridge? I can't literally see the scene you have in mind, so you must use concrete details in order to build a visual concept.
Here's a little example of some concrete detail I wrote up, about a necklace I always wear:
In all likelihood, this necklace was once a big, solid piece of metal. It retains the solidity of one, certainly, only filed down into something artful. It is a triangle of sorts- it has three corners, and yet, because of its strange uniformity, I would hesitate to call it a true triangle. On both of the sloping sides, the carved designs are those of ravens- apparently very big images in Norse mythology. The wings of these ravens; swirling metal grooves that taper into grooved feathers. On one side of the necklace, between the birds, are three intersecting triangles centered around a dot. The grooves are just deep enough to fit the edge of a fingernail into, and they make up the center of one side of the triangle. The flipside of the pendant is similarly structured; in the center of this anterior side, the design is three intersecting curves, meant to represent three drinking horns, a symbol of the poetic mead of inspiration.
This is just a small piece of concrete detail, but the objective here is just to describe an object. I think it does a pretty good job of that, though I'm obviously biased.
Important things to remember when writing concrete detail are the senses- describing how something looks or feels or smells makes it easier for the reader to visualize it. Think about the room you are in. How would you describe it to someone who's never been in it? Or someone who's never been indoors? These hypotheticals will help you think outside the conventional boxes.
Concrete detail is basically the binary opposite to exposition. If concrete detail is all about showing, exposition is all about telling. A little exposition is good, and necessary. Too much of it, though, and the reader is bored, because there is no scenic detail for them to envision. If they are simply being told the details of a story, they are robbed of their agency of imagination.
Remember, my friends: the devil is in the details.