Message from the President
Digging up the Bones – the Devil is in the Details
As a fiction writer, you want your reader to pick up your book and agree to believe, at least for the duration of the story, that the story is real. Providing details is how you hook your reader, how you bring them into the action. So, as the old saying goes, “the Devil is in the details,” you must dig up the bones.
For example, if your character is participating in the Iditarod, you must know that it takes place in March, beginning in Settler’s Bay and ends in Nome, Alaska. Nowhere else in the state of Alaska will be correct. The event is called The Last Great Race on Earth, and utilizes a 16-member dog team led by a sled driver or musher, and memorializes the old ways of delivery and travel in Alaska before the onslaught of snowmobiles.
Not every detail must be true in the conventional sense, however. Science Fiction writers and horror writers know very well the power of invented details. When it comes to Historical Fiction, the truth can be told with “little white lie” details interspersed here and there to further the reader’s imagination.
But does every single detail have to be included? It often depends on writing style. Some writers provide a simple framework and the reader’s imagination fills in the details. Other writers are more verbose, providing specific details of every wrinkle and fold. Whichever writer you tend to be, you must include details that are relevant to the story you’re writing. Is your character fashion driven? Does he or she own a stylish boutique? In that case, it is a good idea to “name drop” various fashion labels to authenticate your character’s place in that boutique. Is your character a police officer? If so, specific details of how traffic stops are made, or interrogation techniques, or how evidence is collected, need to be known.
Another measuring stick about how much detail to include is to think about how familiar or unfamiliar the subject matter you’re writing about is. Most of us don’t know how the first computer was invented, where or when. If your story takes place in that time frame, and your character was somehow involved with or knew about, the details of the first computer, you need to know them as well.
Be specific. Learn to observe. If your character is wearing a suit, don’t tell us he’s wearing a suit. Describe to us the pinstripe, the gold silk handkerchief in the pocket fanned out just so. Is he fat? The suit is strained. Is he thin? The suit hangs from a bony frame. There is an exercise to train yourself to notice details in your everyday life. Every evening, at dinner, name five things that stuck out to you, that were the most interesting observations of your day. Try this for a month and then write about it.
The Springfield Writers’ Guild will continue to meet at the 1711 West Battlefield location of McAlister’s Deli (See map below). Join us at 11:00 a.m. for Mentor Hour as we read and critique members’ writings. The speaker joins us at 1:00 p.m. followed by a short business meeting.
Don’t forget to renew your membership for 2018!
Yearly dues run from January-November each year (no meeting in December). Pay online on the JOIN/RENEW page. New members are encouraged!