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Writing tip: A little detail can make a big impression

Posted by Maria Murnane | November 21, 2016

In the past I’ve argued that giving your characters quirks helps make them seem like real people. The same can be said for peppering your manuscript with the occasional detail. Adding descriptive nuggets such as colors, sounds or smells enriches the picture forming in your readers’ minds, which draws them into the story. And that’s exactly what you want to happen–you want your readers to feel completely immersed in the world you’ve created for them. Novels are about escaping from real life, so give readers somewhere to escape to!

Details also allow you to show your readers about characters and situations rather than tell them. In other words, details allow readers to infer things about characters without your having to overtly mention them.

For example:

  • Instead of stating that Joe loves jazz music, why not have jazz music frequently playing in the background at Joe’s apartment?
  • If the heavyset, middle-aged Penny longs a bit obsessively for the glory days of high school, perhaps her walls are dotted with one too many faded pictures of her dressed in a tiny cheerleader outfit?
  • If Stephanie is nervous about an important job interview, are her palms sweaty? Does she have shadows under her eyes from being up all night?

My longtime editor, Christina Henry de Tessan, loves detail, and she’s always pushing me to add more in my novels. I hate her for it because it’s more work for me, but I love her for it because I know she’s right. Scenes sprinkled with detail draw readers in by giving them something to grab on to. And when your readers are grabbing on, they’re entertained, and that’s the whole point, right?

-Maria

 

This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2016 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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