Odd how some words just jump out at you when you least expect it. I came across the word concrete recently while reading and its context made me pause.
We talk about communicating in concrete terms, concrete images, concrete language. Hard, solid concrete, meant to take a pounding and retain the shape it was poured into. As opposed to vague or ethereal, when you fall upon the concrete it hits you hard. You would not confuse it for anything else.
In writing characters it becomes essential then to make them as concrete as possible, to mold them into form and make it impossible not t notice them. If they are to be remembered there can be nothing soft about them, not about their appearance, not about their manners, not about their thoughts. They can behave in fuzzy and confused ways, but all within the confines of their given shape.
When you insist on examples you are asking for the concrete to set. When you are looking for absolute proof you want it to be concrete when it arrives. No one asks for this clarification to come in the form of mushy asphalt.
But what is concrete?
By definition, concrete is a mixture of aggregate, cement, and water. Aggregate itself is just a mixture of course matter like slag and stone and sand. The cement that binds the aggregate is a powder that hardens as it dries after being mixed with water. The process is about as mysterious as making bricks from mud, but in creating characters we are creating them from this mud as well. We pull together specific traits of behavior, an aggregate of attributes if you will, and bind them within a physical concrete of appearance that, when fully-formed and hardened in the reader’s mind, become vividly certain.
These attributes (actions) and appearances (descriptions) are their skin and bones. Nouns and verbs, structured and hard-baked, these are what make characters concrete.