When it comes to the details of a story we can tend to sink in the quagmire of description. It can downright Tolkien for some folks. Others of us can see it in our head but it’s missing in action on the page.
The rule of THREE for details:
- Details must be concrete. Be specific. If the detail matters enough to mention it make sure you know why. Is your character eating? Eating chips, potato or barbeque? The little things matter. Try to avoid words like: very, a lot, best etc. These are generic words with intangible definitions that rely on comparison.
- Details must be convincing. Be realistic to your character, your setting, your timeframe. Details that are incorrect or unrealistic pull a reader out of the story.
- Details must be telling. Is your mind screaming “show don’t tell” at me? Telling here means the details show a choice by the character on what they choose to see. It “tells” us what kind of person your character is by what they experience. What is described from the point of view tells us a characters history, their emotional state, and the choices they are inclined to make.
Your description should tattle-tail on your characters.
Here’s an exercise to hone your detail skills. Describe your setting, go at it for three full pages. Don’t stop. Every little thing in your minds eye. What’s on the counter, who is in the room, the weather, the senses, everything. Now take three colors and highlight your details that are concrete in blue. Which details are convincing, make those orange. Now which ones are telling, make those yellow. Use these as your best choices for description in your scene and drop the rest.
Here is another post about description.
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