Enid’s Writing Tip #3

Relevant detail, or telling detail, is key. It can be something in the surroundings, an action or gesture, or a reaction to something said, an object in a character’s house that was bought or inherited; or other purchases a character made, or what they’re wearing… clothing, jewelry, shoes; a sight, sound, smell (cooking, perfume…) You don’t need to put everything in or it just becomes a list. You want those details that will deepen the reader’s understanding of the character. The character can also note specific aspects of their surroundings or can describe another character, because such observations also reveal the character of the observer. We’re not only what we eat – we are what we choose to notice.

Note 1: What you don’t put in is often more important than what you do put in. The “missing” object or observation is similar to the blank outline on a wall revealing a picture that used to be there.

Note 2: A good detail catches the reader’s attention. If you describe a room as having a sofa and two chairs, readers tend to glide over it. But a gun on the wall, or a stain or hole in the rug or upholstery, or a pair of mittens draped over a lamp, grabs attention.

Getting the right details is one of the hardest aspects of writing. And worth getting right.

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