Trivia and substance

Details work with you, or not —

Setting the scene is a joyful responsibility. We fiction writers provide the reader with an imaginary world in which to dwell for a time, to escape from the cares of her/his day. We shape the reader’s experience by layering in the details that bring pictures into the mind. We suspend time by providing a story space, with its smells, sounds, sights, atmosphere.

Caution, however. Choose the elements judiciously and avoid a wrong piece of information that can throw the reader right out of your world, perhaps even cause that person to put your story down. If the reader cannot trust the storyteller to get the details right, then the relationship might be broken!

Let’s say you mention a motorcycle. Have it be a real make and model, an actual color, or you can step back and have it be a generic motorcycle, or you can make up something no one ever saw before, depending on the nature of your story. Take the trouble to not let it be a point of suspicion with a reader who might know a lot about motorcycles.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This means you might have to do some research. Become knowledgeable about details that you want to  pinpoint. Realize that there might be unknown aspects — errors — that another person could easily spot, and you can get it fixed. Find a motorcycle expert and ask that person to read your section about motorcycles (think of this as ‘vetting’) and help you finally get the details in place.

Your own day-to-day observations are an excellent source for details. Put your antennae up and remain alert for aspects that will boost your storytelling into a more compelling read. In this photo, instead of  just ‘along a hot country lane’  perhaps you could agree this might be  ‘the afternoon in a blanket of heat, hazy at the horizon, and at the edge of the pines the cicada song rose and fell’.

Writing prompt — In a short paragraph describe the room you are in, or the outdoor location where you are sitting.

Which details would set the story in a compelling context?

Which details will you choose for the scene to have a suspenseful mood?

What if there is a relaxed and pleasant mood, and then a big dog comes in the room?


— Manna is everywhere! —


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