Saturday, September 7, 2013

It's In The Details

 Do you remember this? Those pictures where you had to find the differences between two pictures or find the one that’s different out of seven of the same person/drawing/character/silhouette?

The answer was always in the details.

It still is.

In writing, there is one very important rule that has nothing to do with grammar or story line. It’s the details. It plays into consistency. It’s more than are the characters eyes blue through out the whole story, barring things like contacts. Or if they change colors, do they change between the same colors for the same reason. These things are important. But they aren’t the only details to be concerned with.

Does it matter if in book one of a series the main character goes to Michigan State but in book 15 they go to University of Michigan? Or that throughout the first 5 books the terms creds/cred were used to refer solely to money, chronometer was used to refer to a watch, a compad was a computer, and all vehicles were referred to as mats then in book 6 the cash was used in place of creds, and book 10 the vehicles became transits? Does it matter if the main character went from shooting one handed to a two-handed stance? If the main character always ends their calls with 'later gater' then says once 'bye' or 'see ya', is it going to matter? Does it matter if time is referred to in parsecs for 19 books and in one paragraph of book 20 it becomes minute/second?


But, they're minor details. Surely no will care about those.

Okay, so changing schools isn't a minor detail, and in Michigan - those are fighting words, as people can be fiercely loyal to one school or another. Even the name of the school changes from Tudor State University to University of Tudor or State University at Tudor, it will matter. 

Major details that change without reason are a no-no, and all writers should know that. But the minor details - like word changes - are also a no-no. 

There are no such thing as minor details. Not to your readers. 

If it's in book 1/from first introduction and there is no good, written/shown reason for a change then it needs to be there to the end. 

Laws of your world don't get to change. But to a degree, neither does the language you use. If money is always referred to a cred, even in the exposition - the non-dialogue part of your story, there needs to be a really good reason to use the word cash, dollars, or some variation thereof. A simple word change can completely pull your reader out of your story. Done enough, the reader may not finish the book and refuse to read any others.

Find a beta reader or two who is good at details, who will look for/find those minor details for you and point them out. Read the manuscript out loud, or if your computer has the ability, have it read back to you. Find a way to organize your series notes and include those minor details.

In the overall big picture, do the minor details matter? Yes, they're just as important as the major details, because without them, the world you create and ask your readers to step into will appear incomplete and unsatisfying. Some people aren't going to notice. But some will.

Mistakes happen. To everyone. The idea is to learn from them and go forward, to grow as a writer.


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