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Choosing details: Editor's Notes #259
April 18, 2018
Hello,

I learned no detail was too small. It was all about the details.
—Brad Grey


In this issue:

1. Choosing details
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1. Choosing details
While outlining this issue, I realized there is at least a chapter, if not a book, in the topic of choosing the details when writing. Given the short space available, this issue highlights the purposes of details for you to consider when it comes to choosing them, but first, a warning. The details are vital, so it’s worth getting them right. I recently read a dystopian novel full of sloppy details about the future that even I knew were just wrong. Two examples: I am completely confident that sixty years from now, no one will be wearing jogging pants just as no one today is wearing pedal pushers. Yes, women still wear trousers that end below the knee, but they are no longer called pedal pushers. The same book had people using tablets exactly as we use an iPad today. I doubt the iPad as it is now will last a decade, let alone six decades.

But it’s not only details of the future we need to tend to. Every detail matters, and it helps if you know the jobs of details in the first place.

Details can set a scene and lend an atmosphere. They create vivid images in the reader’s mind.

Physical details and details in speech patterns set one character apart from another.

By drawing the reader’s attention, details signal what is important. They lend emphasis.

In non-fiction, details support arguments and create credibility for the author.

But here’s the thing, too many details are at least as bad as too few. Details are a bit like seasoning in cooking. Salt is good. A cup of salt in a pot of soup makes the soup inedible.

Your job as a writer is to choose your details mindfully. Does it matter if her eyes are green? Does the reader need to know who designed the hero’s jeans? Is it important that the office is on the ninth floor? Does the gun in the glove compartment matter?

Bet I piqued your interest with the gun bit. But that gun matters only if it shows something the writer can’t show in another way or if someone is going to fire it.

I promise you that in many novels there are green-eyed heroines you’ve imagined as dark-eyed beauties and offices that were in a completely different part of the building you imagined them to be in. There are probably even guns you never heard about because they weren’t important to the story.

Good writers hide many more details than they choose to share. Use details — carefully.

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2.Tickled my funny bone
He had delusions of adequacy. —Walter Kerr (With thanks to Albert Hall.)

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3. Interesting Web site
This treasure trove about details begins discussing details in compositions, but if you follow the links and read all the quotes, you will find a rich source of information on using details in many forms of writing. Enjoy.
https://www.thoughtco.com/detail-composition-term-1690382

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4. Writing prompt
Imagine a setting for a story, one you are writing, or one you might write one day. Set the scene giving only three to five vital details. I’d love to see your results.

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