Details, details, details!

by Iris
(Florida)

I cannot stress this enough. PUT DETAIL INTO YOUR WRITING!

Problem #1: Action details
ex: He walked to the room
Reader:BORING!
Try this: He strode enthusiastically toward the meeting room.
Reader: Ha-haaa
You see? Now you've jazzed up the action of your character.

Problem #2: the word "said." Alright, I'm guilty of using this one occasionally, but it still drives me crazy. So, please, use a word other than "said." Try making a list of words that you can use, it helped me so it should help you.

Problem #3: Character info. I'm getting sick of reading books that don't tell me about the characters. I want to know hair colour, eye colour, hieght, weight,pet peeves, vices, phobias, everything. It helps the reader to better understand the point that you're trying to get across to them.

I hope these tips helped! See ya!

-Iris

Comments for Details, details, details!

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Dec 10, 2011
Don't Agree
by: Anonymous

Sorry, I only agree (and there only somewhat) with the last part. "Strode enthusiastically" is using an adverb, and the website (Writers' Helper) advised to avoid adverb usage. I agree with the site. Using "enthusiastically" made it read like amateur writing. "Strode" is a strong verb but does not necessarily imply enthusiasm - but you could add the enthusiasm by describing his face, body posture,the reaction of others, etc. Also, I have no problems with "said". Certainly in some cases, words like "sobbed", "wailed", "stuttered",
"shouted" etc. are appropriate, but if your characters are written clearly enough and you've set the stage so that your reader is truly FEELING the story, "said" works just fine. It also, I think, shows respect for your reader's
intelligence. The final suggestion you made - about giving mnore details about characters (physical attributes, backgrounds) is one of those things that separate good writing from bad. You,as an artist-of-words, are responsible for finding the best and the most gentle, natural ways to insert physical description and background data. I don't think the reader has to know everything.

Mar 05, 2011
Choosing the details
by: Audrey

You are so right, Iris, that often readers leave out important details, or report in a boring way.

I have two balancing comments:

1. WHAT: Make sure that the reader needs the details you include. The goal is always to put the message front and center and keep the writing in the background. Including too many details can bog the story down.

2. WHERE: Sometimes the problem is that the details are in the wrong place. Often with a little thought, the writer can slide in a detail about one thing when describing another.

A footnote on said...

It's always good to have a large vocabulary to choose from, so a list of words you can use instead of said is a good thing. I would not think it so good to use them all in every piece of writing. Often, said is the perfect word. At the very least, it does not draw attention to itself.

I recently watched a documentary about Agatha Christie's writing. One feature the researchers discovered was that she used the word said almost exclusively. That suited her writing perfectly because her goal was to move the plot along.

Here's something to try...

Take a favorite novel and copy a chapter or two that have a significant amount of dialogue. Then mark each attribution (said John, screamed Jack, etc.). Then graph them.

The next step would be the most important. Ask yourself if you agree or disagree with the author's choice in each case.

Happy writing!

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