Friday, October 14, 2011

Writer's Tip: Devilish Details

I am coaching a book right now. The author showed great promise in her manuscript, but she was making two critical mistakes:

1. Rushing the story
2. Missing the specific details

I'm going to save story development for another blog. I want to talk about details versus minutia. New writers tend to write in general descriptions or they get too bogged down in minutia. Rich details are the difference between saying your character put on a green sweater vs. a green INC. cable-knit cardigan with the sweet yarn button on the front. The difference between tennis shoes and white Keds or maybe white-and-black nylon Nikes. Who would wear a pair of Keds? The type of shoe chosen says something about the character. She is preppy. Maybe she even wears cute, cuffed white socks with her Keds. What does that suggest: preppy and proper. What I commonly see are writers who simply say tennis shoes.

If the description gives the reader valuable information about the character or story, do it. If the description does not but gives the writer pleasure in writing it, throw it out. If describing that lemon meringue pie behind the counter does nothing more than establish that the character likes pie and is eating at a pie shop, keep it. Do not go on and on about the pie, the plates, the silverware and the cute bus boy who has nothing to do with anyone in the story. These pleasurable diversions only serve the purpose of entertaining the author, but do not propel the story or develop the characters. The reading experience becomes meandering and distracting. Your reader will probably give up before you've even taken them through chapter two.

When you read my new novel California Girl Chronicles, notice it's a clean read. It's told in the first person, and you'll notice few distractions in the storytelling. You'll taken on a literary tour through her world and experiences. The descriptions are there only to set place and give you an idea about what Brea likes or dislikes. You meet her friends and associates and you get to know them through her eyes only. Brea only knows what she's told. Early comments have been that readers like the simplicity of the story and that they couldn't put the book down. Why is that? Because readers are not being distracted by too many details and unnecessary minutia. Those two mistakes alone bog down the story and should be avoided if you want to keep the experience captivating. Of course, captivating your audience is a whole other discussion too. Till next time ...

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