Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Worry About The Small Stuff...

Although we spend a great deal of time focusing on the big picture of the story - the plot, characters, and world buidling - there is a time when we have to focus on the small little things. Sometimes, those small points in the story are enough to drive a reader crazy and end up closing the book up.

I started thinking about this recently as I was working through the critiques for the writers that submitted things to the South Sound Titan's Swim program. While these ideas got me thinking about it, they were in no way the single writers that do these mistakes. In fact, many of the comments I write about didn't even come from these critiques.

When I talk about the small stuff, I am refering to those details that, if a person who is reading is in the know, will realize you had no clue what you were talking about. The editors at Mills and Boon in the historical section are fantastic about this.

Let me give you some examples...

In one case, a writer was talking about some student walking into a hallway after class. At one point the main character heard something in the hallway and looked around finding no one there. And yet, this was in a hallway, during a school day, between classes... Woops, there should be people in the hallway.

How about the weather. That's always one we forget. While you might want the hero to see her in a really hot mid-riff tee and shorts, if it is right after work and everyone just left their offices, would she be in it? Maybe if she wasn't at work. More than likely, no.

Many professions also have seasonal activities. Anything agriculture, for example, have exact times when someone will do something, whether it is harvesting, or crushing grapes or trimming. Put it at the wrong time and you might have a problem.

Even time plays an issue. Sometimes, as a writer is attempting to move the story along, he or she will forget that real time does come into play. Drive times, cooking times, even time time to take a shower will be a factor. What about international phone calls. You have to calculate that into a story.

Now, while this might not ruin the plot of the story, these small issues do add up for a reader and they will be very frustrated. They might not catch each of the issues but when the problems do arise, it is like fingernails down the chalkboard. The reading stops immediately and now the reader is turned off. Maybe not enough to throw the book away, but that small point will stick in their head.

Your homework today... Read that work in progress for all of those small details. Use a calendar to plot how much time it would take to mail a letter. Walk the distance equal to what your writer had to do and time it. Can you accomplish what the character did?

Trust me, these details will make a world of difference.


1 comment:

  1. Great post. Thanks for the reminder. It's so easy to get absorbed in making your point that you brush aside the small details.
    Can I also say THANK YOU for such a fantastic critique. You have given me so much to work with and I'm really excited about the changes you suggested.
    Thanks again for your time.