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Friday, May 24, 2013


                Details are the backbone of a story.  They breathe life into it, evoke emotions, and even memories.  They are the difference between making a good story into a great story.
                Natalie Goldberg, the writer of “Writing Down the Bones”  [1]  describes details in terms of “specifics,” and she even makes that one of her “Rules of Writing Practice.”  “Be Specific.”  An example of this would be instead of saying “Car,” one should say, “1995 Camaro Z28.”   Another example, “Oak” instead of “Tree.”  If you want more specific, then you could add “Cherry red, soft top.”  So it would look something like this:

                                “My friend Chris bought a cherry red Camaro Z28 soft top today for her birthday.”
                Or, the description of a Ohio summer would not be complete without the, “…cloying scent of honesuckle wrapping itself around me and pulling me into nirvana.” 

Details make a story vivid.  The scenes are more ‘alive.’   I can bring them to my minds eye, and appreciate the story more.    The importance of detail was brought home to me by a speech I once heard at the Hawaii Writers Conference (formerly Maui Writers Conference) several years ago by Erik Larsen, author of “Devil in the White City; Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America”  [2]
In this speech, he talked about statistics, details about the population of Chicago during the time frame of the 1893 Worlds Fair.  He told of the numbers of humans, horses, and other domestic animals;  plus he additionally talked about the industries that were highly polluting the city, the stock yards, etc.  He even estimated the amount of excrement, urine, and other bodily wastes that permeated the entire city, and you could smell the place as he described it.  Those details were vivid and definite.  They made the story all that more interesting.  And this is actually a true story!  The story is told about 2 men, of totally different backgrounds, that only have the Fair in common.  One is an architect who actually was on the Titanics Sister ship the day Titanic went down.  The other a common man who becomes a serial killer.  It’s really worth reading. 
                Lastly, the details remain in your soul long after the last page is turned.  The story is in our memory banks forever.  If you don’t believe me?  Then try reading  “Devil” or even fictional Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  These will be with you for the rest of your days.  I know they will be with me until the end of mine. 

[1] Natalie Goldberg, “Writing Down the Bones”  c.  2005 2nd edition.  Shambhala Publishing

[2] Erik Larsen, “Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America: ”  C. 2004 Vintage Publishing.  

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