The Devil is in the Details

It’s been said a bazillion times, “Write what you know.” My friends think this means I should write about raising small children, or homeschooling or being a domestic failure….but to me writing is an escape. I don’t want to rehash the perils of my day and I don’t know why anyone would want to read about them to the tune of 80,000 words. Yikes. So, I write what I want, but I pepper in my favorite details.

Details can make the story.

How many times have I reread a sentence, put the book on my lap, looked into the air and said ,”Yes!” A lot. I do it a lot and I love that moment where an author has masterfully detailed something dear to me. Or even something simple which I’d never given thought before. Words are powerful. Words will change the way you see things. Words will change the world. But enough of that for right now.

Details can help or hinder. So, be sure you get them right. I did a beta read for a friend in another country a couple years ago and her MC woke in LA, pulled back the blinds of her loft apartment to take in the stellar views of the park outside. Central Park. Oops. I’ve seen writers describe the Amish community as if it were a commune. Obvi they haven’t ever been to an Amish populated town. I could go on, but you get he drift. If you aren’t absolutely certain, don’t say it. Google it, phone a friend, or skip it.

But if you DO know it, describe it with abandon. What makes the details truly spectacular is the author’s unique perception of the thing they describe. Chances are, I don’t see it the way you do…until you tell me, then I have a whole new appreciation. Something I considered commonplace is now mysterious, comical or beautiful. Then, as a reader, I officially love you. Or, you describe it as I’ve always imagined it and then we are kindred spirits. So, it’s a win-win really.

Yes, dialogue is important to keep your story moving forward.

Yes, too much purple prose will kill your novel dead by way of strangulation.

All the more reason to make the details you offer up matter. Make them strong, visual images that last long after your reader has finished reading for the night. Make them dream of your creation.

Do you have a favorite author or book where the words pulled you onto the pages, right into the world they created? Please share!

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