(Please bear with me for this post in the way of any spellling/grammar errors, as I appear to have gotten my settings stuck in spanish, so Everything is underlined in red)
Life is in the details. There are so many little things that we see all around us and take for granted. Out of the corner of my eye, I am currently ignoring about twenty post-it notes, four business cards, a bowl, tangled earbuds…. A host of unimportant things, that I probably would never think to write about in the surroundings of a character when I’m setting the scene. But some of those details show little hints of my personality, without coming out and saying it outright. Writing about those details could be the perfect opening to insert the constantly sought after “Show, don’t tell” mantra of many writers.
A character could be described as a very smart girl with an obsession with winning. Or you could instead start the scene in her bedrooom with a description of stacks of books, a wall of trophies, and an abandoned chess set. Will those books facot directly into the story? Probably not, but describing them brings the character to life more so than any other tactic. The details are the difference between a bland, cookie-cutter character and a dianamic heroine.
But there’s a balance to be struck. Getting bogged down in the details is one of those traps that we all fall into in real life just as much as in writing. You might think every moment of your day was utterly delightful, but your friend probaba doesn’t want a minute-by-minute breakdown over the phone at the end of the day (“and then I blew my nose, so I had to….”). It’s the same in writing. In the bedroom scene, don’t write about the position of every piece of furniture in the room unless it a) will affect the story, b) tells us about the character, or c) is highly amusing.
The details are the life-blood of the story and can bring it to life. Have you ever read a book where you could scarcely imagine the scenes and then picked up a book that was more description than dialog? The difference can blow you away. I personally prefer the latter. Do you have a favorite example of a book filled with minute details? Tell me about it in the comments!