James Thayer said:
This is such an important topic. John Gardner in The Art of Fiction speaks of details as “proofs,” rather like those in a geometry theorem. The novelist, he says, “gives us such details about the streets, stores, weather, politics, and details about the looks, gestures, and experiences of his characters, so that we cannot help believing that the story is true.” Details should be specific and concrete. A detail is concrete when it appeals to the senses.
Thanks, James, for reminding us of that important tenet of detail: a concrete detail is not only specific, but also sensory. Remember to use your senses, writers, rather than speaking generally about heartbreak or joy. What makes an experience joyful? What does the character’s body experience? What sensory experiences are in the air or on the tongue?
I used to doubt my ability to write details. I’ve always considered myself a dialog writer. A few years ago I took a class with a marvelous teacher who somehow managed to get me to unlock the details. the results were a surprise to even me, the person writing them.
Inspiring, Eva. Many of us think we can’t do some particular part of writing, so we avoid it carefully. There’s no reason why these skills can’t be learned and honed — that’s what craft, and this blog, are all about. Play to your strengths — but stretch those strengths, too.
After the jump: responses to the loss of handwriting.