Part of the post was about . . . details. Take a gander at the following . . .
But I think one of the most important things to remember when we put that pen to paper, or our fingers to the keys, is that novels are usually not meant to portray real life. They. Are. Fiction. Even if it's a memoir or an autobiography, we don't include the boring details that have nothing to do with the point. There must always be a point. Every scene, every line, every word needs to move the plot and characters forward. If it's something experimental or postmodern, there still needs to be a point, even if nothing happens or moves forward.
I try to remember these things as I'm writing and revising. My readers don't care what the room looks like unless it matters. They don't care what a character looks like unless it matters. No matter how important it may seem to you, or how vivid it is in your mind, please don't put it in unless it accomplishes something productive.
Now, take a look at what I sketched out the other day. It all started with one question, that became a series of questions . . .
At what point do you include character specifics in your manuscript?
That is . . .
- hair color
- eye color
- body type
Do you mention these specifics in . . .
- great detail?
- little detail?
- not at all?
If you do mention these specifics, do you do this in . . .
- the first paragraph?
- the second paragraph?
- the first 250 words? 700 words? 1,000 words?
Is the description . . .
Yes, I know, I pretty much asked those questions, but the sketch out on paper was so pretty, I just had to include them again.
Do you only provide the basics about a character's appearance and let the reader fill in the blanks?
The reason I began to write down these questions in the first place, was after a comment was made about the first 1,000 words of one of my manuscripts where I described a character's hair, very, very briefly, just to let the reader know the hair color . . . She laughed again and shook her head, her shoulder length, silver tinged black hair, swaying from side to side. The comment was . . . I don't care right now that mom's hair is dark but silver streaked at this moment... you can work it in later.
Now, for some other very, very important questions . . .
- Is it important to mention that Character J is holding a margarita in his right hand? Left hand? Both hands?
- Is this an unnecessary detail?
- What if someone tosses a chip at said character who is holding the margarita in his right hand, and yet he also effortlessly catches the chip . . . in his right hand?
- What about a character going to the bathroom? No, not all the gory details, please, I have some sense of decorum. Rather, the mention of hey, i'm distended, i must void! which allows the character to exit the room and the other characters to talk about said character!
Now, since we're talking about details. What about . . .
- Room Descriptions - do you mention furniture, placement, pictures on wall, colors of things, flat screen tv. Is any of this necessary?
- Seating in a Restaurant - four characters sitting in a booth, do you need to know that Character A is sitting next to Character C, but across from Character B, and catty-corner to Character D? Would this information be important if Character C was going to gently pat Character A on the head as a sign of affection?
Lastly, to go with Lady Glamis' concept of boring events - what actually constitutes a boring event?
Okay, now lastly, to echo a statement from Lady Glamis . . . does every scene, every line, every word need to move the plot and characters forward?
Nope, wait a minute . . . ooops, totally lost my train of thought on that one. I really, seriously, had a great question. Dang, hate it when that happens! Hmmmmm . . .
Well, unfortunately, my gem of brilliance just disappeared. Everything, so it seems, boils down to a simple question of details, how much, when, where, and possibly never.