Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's All in the Details

My first week sans writing (of the official working-on-novel-nature, not so much other putterings, as those will be always going, going) is nearly over, and because I’m very much missing tinkering at my book every night, I’m distracting myself with other books. 

Which I need to do more of anyway.

link to original here
Thus far I've skimmed back through Stieg Larson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I want to go back in to hash it up in detail -- plot line, character development, how he uses multiple voices to tell the story and then how that makes the reader react emotionally (because they have more information than the other characters) -- but that’s going to take a second longer than I have right now because I want to get a couple of other books in, things I haven’t read yet, over these two weeks.

I’ve read Sharon Shinn’s first book in the Twelve Houses Series, Mystic and Rider. I love Sharon Shinn, and this novel doesn’t disappoint. I’m trying to break down the details as I read – her descriptions of places, what word(s) she uses to transition, how she creates fluidity in her dialogue.

link to original here
I’m re-reading the Hunger Games because I’m stoked for the movie coming out this month. Finally, eh? Anyone else out there who’s been waiting on the edge of their seat ever since they announced Lionsgate was picking it up? But Suzanne Collins does a great job choosing details in her writing to give depth to her characters, the epitome of “show, don’t tell.” Here’s an example: 

“’Hey, Catnip,’ says Gale. My real name is Katniss, but when I first told him, I had barely whispered it. So he thought I’d said Catnip. Then when this crazy lynx started following me around the woods looking for handouts, it became his official nickname for me. I finally had to kill the lynx because he scared off game. I almost regretted it, because he wasn’t bad company. But I got a decent price for his pelt” (pg 7).

In just one paragraph Collins does multiple things – gives some background of the relationship between Gale and Katniss, shows the main character’s unwillingness to let affection for a cat get in the way of her need to take care of her family, thereby giving readers a hint into Katniss' mind about her priorities, and how they may play a part in the rest of the book(s). 

I’m sure there are more things she's doing with this paragraph, but you get the point?

Rose Tremain, from the Guardian article, says of detail: “Be economic with descriptions. Sort out the telling detail from the lifeless one.”

I love Tremain’s choice of vocab, because she illustrates her point by using words that create great visuals. Economic. Lifeless. I love it. So she’s saying give as much pack to your punch as you can? Make each word useful, if you can?

Easier to say than do, but noted.

Meanwhile. Someone said I should check into Nicholas Sparks, in reference to this post. Thoughts on his work from anyone else who’s read him? 

And because I’ve registered for this conference, I’m reading up on a couple of authors who’ll be there. Shannon Hale, Mette Ivie Harrison, and Jennifer Neilsen for starters. And um, so. Tracy Hickman is going to be there? I don’t even know, I just… heh. I’m laughing at my pre-event shyness. He and Margaret Weis are…? How to describe? I still have details from a couple of their stories seared into my writer-mind (the one that grabs onto things with a hope to use it later in my writing) from over 20 years ago.   

If you are an aspiring writer, and you can make it to this event, you should definitely go. And it’s on St. Patrick’s day, which is always a plus for reasons I’ll just let you imagine from your varying realms of experience (as for me -- there will definitely be green pancakes to start off the day).

Any other reading suggestions?

Total pages logged as of today: Visit my First Draft -- Deb Stats page to find out

Moment of Magic today:

The story goes that the members of this band met each other while working at Disney Land, and the bassist was Tinkerbell. I love the story (true or not true), and I love the bassist. Even if I'm not Disney's favorite fan, I love Tinkerbell. And I love this song.


  1. "sort out the telling detail from the lifeless one." hmm...some details speak to some... other details are "telling" for others... what about a spectrum of details. your friend, ouddafocus lawton.

    1. Seems to me you're not so ouddafocus, because your viewpoint is spot on. A spectrum is a good goal. Good thought.


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