Details, Details, Details

Hi all, sorry for missing last week. It was a rough week all around; this semester, graduate school is kicking my patookie. In fact, I’ll probably have to go on a hiatus for a while.

In class, we’ve been talking about details: relevant vs irrelevant, and how they can alter the power of your story. I tend to rely on details. I over-write during my first draft and then filter out what isn’t needed in later drafts. As long as the details are important both to the character and the plot, they stay in… otherwise, it just has to “feel right.” There’s no other way for me to explain it.

Other students in my class feel it’s a bit arbitrary, how they decide whether ideas are relevant or not. How do you determine that your details are relevant?

4 thoughts on “Details, Details, Details

  1. I'm with you on the over-writing of the first draft, at least on some level — I tend to under-write some sections and over-write others. My big issue is including visuals that don't really matter.

    I try to look at the details and tell myself, "Does this do anything, or do I just like the way it looks?" I think the worst of this "I think it looks cool" problem is that almost everyone in the novel I'm pretending to work on smokes. The estranged grandfather shares a smoke with the grandson he's just met. The minor bad guy blows smoke up against the menu while arranging a deal. The good guy smokes because I imagine just slightly strung out and sucking down the nicotine like it's saving his life. If there's an emotionally relevant scene, someone is lighting up.

    Other than that personal hang-up, I'm with you on just sort of feeling which details are right — sometimes it works that one character spends an entire scene changing their hair color while another character may never have their hair described.

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  2. I’m with you on the over-writing of the first draft, at least on some level — I tend to under-write some sections and over-write others. My big issue is including visuals that don’t really matter.

    I try to look at the details and tell myself, “Does this do anything, or do I just like the way it looks?” I think the worst of this “I think it looks cool” problem is that almost everyone in the novel I’m pretending to work on smokes. The estranged grandfather shares a smoke with the grandson he’s just met. The minor bad guy blows smoke up against the menu while arranging a deal. The good guy smokes because I imagine just slightly strung out and sucking down the nicotine like it’s saving his life. If there’s an emotionally relevant scene, someone is lighting up.

    Other than that personal hang-up, I’m with you on just sort of feeling which details are right — sometimes it works that one character spends an entire scene changing their hair color while another character may never have their hair described.

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  3. For the most part, when I sit down to write for the first pass, I use simple sentences to keep things short and sweet. I try to write everything out as simple as possible just to get it from my head to the page. That keeps me focused on “the important things” that stand out in my mind as I see the scene in my head. Afterwards, I go back and add fluff and detail to those parts that are “too simple” in order to bring them to life.

    I try to break up and spread my descriptions throughout a scene as my characters notice and interact with each other and their environment. This is all to avoid the mighty INFO DUMP that I used to force upon my victim readers, lol.

    Like

  4. For the most part, when I sit down to write for the first pass, I use simple sentences to keep things short and sweet. I try to write everything out as simple as possible just to get it from my head to the page. That keeps me focused on “the important things” that stand out in my mind as I see the scene in my head. Afterwards, I go back and add fluff and detail to those parts that are “too simple” in order to bring them to life.

    I try to break up and spread my descriptions throughout a scene as my characters notice and interact with each other and their environment. This is all to avoid the mighty INFO DUMP that I used to force upon my victim readers, lol.

    Like

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