Thursday, July 21, 2011

Details, Details

As writers we’re always on the search for the perfect amount of detail.

Too much, and its a tedious read.

Too little, and our readers won’t have a clue what the heck we’re talking about.

Or will they?

In On Writing, Stephen King says that with strong word choices and a firm grasp of what’s important for the reader to see, a writer can, indeed, convey their point, message, beauty, horror, whatever really, with just a few words.

Consider King's example:

Look- here’s a table covered with a red cloth. On it is a cage the size of a small fish aquarium. In the cage is a white rabbit with a pink nose and pink-rimmed eyes. In its front paws is a carrot-stub upon which it is contentedly munching. On its back, clearly marked in blue ink, is the numeral 8.

Are you wondering if we’re seeing the same thing? Stephen King says that besides a few subtle variances, we are.

Not so sure about that? You can play this game with your husband. Or your best friend. Or your children. They won’t mind, I promise.

King’s point is that we might be seeing varying shades of red. You might be remembering your pet rabbit while I, however, am not. But that blue ink 8 on the rabbit’s back? Oh yeah baby, we all see that.

And that’s what matters, right?

Trust your reader to use your gorgeous, succinct, tight word choices to paint their picture. Lead their eye, mind, heart only to what's important to your story; what pushes it forward.

King says, "Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s." I keep that in my pocket while I write.

The other tool that I keep in there?

Is blueberries.

Yes, blueberries.

Forever and a day ago I read this sweet piece by Nichole.

Whole wheat toast and perfectly plump blueberries.
“Where is Thumbkin, where is Thumbkin? Here I am!”
Markers and stickers and practicing K*A*T*I*E.
Dancing and twirling to Natalie Merchant.
More blocks.
Golden roast chicken with rosemary, thyme, and garlic.
Welcome home squeals and hugs.

And all these months later, the one detail that's still stuck in mind? Is those perfectly plump blueberries. So much so that I think about them every time I write.

Yes, every time.

When I edit I plan which one or two or three items, moments, people I really want my reader to feel in their bones and carry with them.

And those are my blueberries.

The ones that I search for stronger words to describe, that I layer in senses and other character’s reactions to- the blue numeral 8, the perfectly plump go there.

And everything else? Can be described as red or white, a table or a cage. Your reader can decide how bright the white is or what the cage is made of- I promise.

Every night, I sit at my kitchen table mumbling my piece out loud. Jason walks by, rubs my back and asks, Looking for the blueberry?

And yes. I always am.

How about you? Have you written a post where The Blueberry stands out? Have you read someone else’s who has? Please leave a Blueberry Link below. I’d so love to read them. And keep them in my pocket.

Today's Guest Host, Galit, blogs at These Little Waves.

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