All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Friday, January 6, 2023

The Word for 2023: Detail

Happy New Year, and may 2023 be a year of good health for you. I know it didn't start out that way for me - I woke up New Year's Eve with a pretty nasty cold (not COVID) - but I have the rest of the year to be healthy.

On a more interesting note, once I recovered from my cold, I decided to go visit my mother. The facility that takes care of her had been on COVID quarantine for a while, so now that the quarantine was lifted enough for visitors and my cold had subsided, a visit felt appropriate. I still bundled up, wore my mask, and took all precautions necessary just in case something was still communicable or one last cold virus in me wanted to make a run for it. When I got to the residences and came to sign in, I was basically a mound of things to protect me either from the cold outside or the threat of contagion. The funny part - once I got to the desk, the staff knew exactly who I was. How did they pull this off before I even gave my name?

My eyes. They recognized me immediately because I have my mother's eyes, and those baby blues were basically the only recognizable part of me sticking out beneath the protective masks and winter wear. Nothing else mattered - that one detail gave me away immediately.

This brings me to an important writing element that can often be overlooked: the art of detail. Beginning writers are often told to describe everything, and that's a good technique to learn. However, we learn that technique in order to parse through all the little things and find that one stand-out thing that makes our character rise above the crowd. There are a bunch of ways to describe me and all kinds of details to bring out: That shuffle in my step when my knees have put on too many miles in a day, the Irish freckles scattered about my face, or my ever-receding hairline and balding scalp that suggests a once-proud head of hair one resided there. All those things describe some aspect of me, and in different stories they would be the important detail. However, in this particular story, the one call-out is the eyes. I share some other features with my mother, but if you saw me and her together, and we both looked at you, the only detail that would matter to you would be those piercing blue eyes. 

In many stories, the main character's eye color is not even mentioned. The same goes for hair, facial features, and even skin color in cases where these details are not relevant to the story. The real art of description comes in taking one aspect, one feature of the character, and showcasing it in a way that sticks with the reader. With good writing, the reader will latch on to one detail and build the character around that, making it a fully fleshed-out entity in their own mind. Once that happens, the reader is part of the story. They are invested. They keep on reading.

Keep this in mind when you want a character to have a particular draw. Showcase their thick, lustrous hair, the rich, full color of their skin, or whatever you want to use to attract the reader. Just remember that when it comes to blue eyes, I got that covered.


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