Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Little Details - Part Two

40 Degrees this morning with an expected high of 77 degrees. Woo-hoo! Now what in the heck does any of that have to do with a blog about writing? Well, it’s all in the little details.

How often is the weather mentioned in your writing? Do you make it a point of giving some indication – chilly, cool, hot, humid, sweltering, so hot you could fry an egg on your windshield, damp, moist, cloudy, dreary – of the weather in your writing? Do you mention that Sally is wearing a sweater because it is 33 degrees in May, in Tennessee (or wherever your story takes place)?

Do you mention any of the following . . .
  • condensation on margarita pitcher
  • congealing cheese dip
  • salsa dripping off the chip and onto your character's pristine, neatly pressed and lightly starched white button down Oxford
  • lukewarm coffee - character is walking around, sipping coffee, doing this, that, and whatever, then takes a drink and - blech - the coffee is lukewarm or cold
  • waking up to sound of cat hacking up hairball
  • stepping on said hacked up hairball the next morning because character was too lazy to get out of bed and clean it up at 2 AM
  • opening bottle of wine
  • commenting about taste of wine
  • going to bathroom (no, not all the gory details - just a reference i'm distended and must void as a character, perhaps, stands up from the table in the restaurant and walks away, out of the scene)
  • washing dishes
  • noticing people - i.e., Jane notices that the man with the nice pecs has on a nice blue shirt, or his jeans are tight and showing off his assets
  • the color of the margaritas - trust me, some nights they are nuclear green, and some nights their a more safe to drink color
  • the taste of the margaritas as in whoa, did someone get carried away with the lime juice!!!

Just like the character details mentioned in this post, I try to mention the little details about life in my writing. I want my characters/situations as real as possible. My characters are known to make snarky comments about going to the bathroom. I have gone into detail about a character opening a bottle of wine or going blech when he/she took a sip of cold coffee. I have two characters that every night, after dinner, wash and dry the dishes together. It is a routine. They talk about the day or whatever as they do the dishes. It is one of their rituals as a couple. Washing dishes is one of their bonding moments of their day.

I firmly believe that every story needs the little details of life to make it more real, even if the story takes place on some far distant world or in a kingdom of Elves or beneath the sea. The little details weave the threads of the story together into a believable - at least in my opinion - tapestry.

So, my question: do you infuse your story with the little details of life? If not, why? If so, what are some of the details?



Tess said...

A little voice is telling me that the cat hairball in the bed is not purely fiction :)

Great points. I once left a sarcastic comment on Lisa and Laura's blog about how I wear a red zip up Calvin Klein jumpsuit that I could unzip *just* low enough (they were making fun of jumpsuits that day) Anyway, they quickly responded with an apology!! It was just a joke! As if I would wear a red zippered jumpsuit. They said it was the details that made them think it was true.

Ok, now I'm just rambling...

Cindy said...

Those are great little details. I am trying to work harder on details in my WIP. I do put them in there but lately they seem very general or very cliche. Thanks for the reminder!

Scott said...

Tess - I've been there, done that with stepping on the cat hairball. I guess that's why I put it in as one of the little details. Now, tell the truth about that jumpsuit hidden in the back of the closet . . . flashback to the 70s! ; )

Cindy - you're welcome. You don't have to overwhelm your writing with the little details, just make sure to mention them every now and then. At some point, the lack of little details makes me go "hhmmmmmm"!


Litgirl01 said...

My book is set in England for the most part. I do mention the weather...cold and foggy. :-)

Scott said...

LitGirl01 - do you mention tea versus coffee? chips versus fries?

I totally admire you for writing outside our realm! I worked with a woman from England a long time ago and the differences between what Americans call something versus what the English call something was truly amazing. It was funny how one simple American phrase could be considered 'naughty' in England.

Good luck with your project. : )


Alex Moore said...

great list...and realistic...i could see the condensation :)