I’m reminded of the joke where a student is asked to use defeat, deduct, defense and detail in the same sentence and comes up with: Defeat of deduct went over defense before detail.

The difference between a good story and a great one can often be as simple as a turn of a phrase. Basically, it boils down to details. This is something that has been hard for me because I don’t absorb them that well from books I read. Sometimes I forget how a character looks just after an author describes them, or I see it differently due to my own interpretations. (And cover photos that don’t match the author’s descriptions annoy me no end.)

When I took creative writing in high school, the teacher had us write a description of an outfit we owned. Then we had to give it to someone else and have them draw it. Artistic talent aside, it was a great exercise in how to overburden your work with too much detail. Readers like me only want a few words to be able to picture things. I’ve never liked big paragraph of details that slow the story down – I don’t care how necessary they are to set the scene.

Then, why do I put them in my own writing? Because they’re an easy way to put all the details together. Did I sufficiently describe the scene? Oh yes, it’s all right here. Grrr.

I’ve worked on smoothing and spreading out details in this rewrite… and adding them. Since I tend to glaze over them in books I read, I’m not certain when I’ve included enough in my own work. I mean, I can see the story like a movie, why can’t you? 😉

When I’ve included too little, the scene reads too fast. The words are there, but it feels like I rushed through the scene to get to something more important. So, I added a bit of padding to chapter one that sets the scene of the convention when Sabrina arrives, instead of simply ushering her through to her friend’s booth. This also enabled me to generically add the friend’s name to the work – putting it on the sign as opposed to the character just thinking, My friend _____.

The other new detail we “discovered” today changes several key scenes – and makes them less likely to be cut later. Now I have a real reason for my story to be this long. It feels similar in scope to when we realized that two characters’ relationship was incorrect. Once that changed, everything fell in place. I feel that way about this new change.

The best part is that it has rejuvenated me and made me excited about the end of the book again. That’s huge! And any detail that does that is more than necessary – it’s wise.


2 thoughts on “Detail

  1. Mysti Parker says:

    I love seeing you discover breakthroughs and keep forging ahead. I’ve been on hiatus from working on my latest, mostly because I haven’t the brain capacity to work out all those fine details just yet. When summer’s over though…

    And you’re right! Details are great in moderation, just like beer. 🙂

  2. I still haven’t read through A Ranger’s Tale yet (I’m too hypercritical of everything right now) but I really liked what I saw in the sample. Is your latest the 3rd installment?

    Breakthroughs are good (so is beer lol).
    My husband just did an exercise with me today that helped him understand why details are so difficult for me to imagine. So great being married to someone who’s just as analytical as I am.

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