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Monday, July 16, 2007

Nail it with Details

So, we have a blueprint, some materials, and even a few tools. Are we ready to build our dream house? Not quite. We still need something to fasten it together with, like nails. Or in this case, since we’re talking about building stories, details.

Soon after we purchased our “lot,” we ended up in a legal battle with one of our neighbors. While discussing our situation with our lawyer, he said, “The devil is in the details.” When it comes to the law, this phrase may be true, but with writing, it’s not the devil that’s in the details, it’s god. Not God, our Father in Heaven, nor His Son, I’m not speaking of deity here, but I am saying that exact, concrete details have the power to lift our writing to a higher plane because they “create”—fasten—specific images and emotions in the minds of our readers.

For example, if the hero of your story is a fisherman who has fallen in love with a farmer’s daughter, it would put a much stronger image and emotion in your reader’s mind, if you have him say to her, “Your hair sparkles like the coastline after a storm,” rather than, “Your hair looks good.”

Similarly, a porcelain-faced, china doll; a multi-patched, sock puppet; or a “Red Rider B-B gun” will not only create exact images, but will also imply object-specific emotions. For instance, when I picture the china doll, I think of grace, refinement, and quiet. The sock puppet? Love. The B-B gun? A mixture of laughter and sadness—all the emotions related to the movie, “A Christmas Story.”

Now, I have a challenge for you. At rondagibbhinrichsen.com, I have posted a few pictures from my recent trip to Beijing, China. I have also listed a few, non-specific adjectives which a less conscientious writer might use to describe them. See if you can do better. And you know, I’d love to hear some of your ideas!

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