Reflection: Details

Being detailed is important for writing fiction.  I know that when I write stories, I have to include enough details to make it clear as to what’s going on, and let the readers picture the story.  However, at the same time, being too detailed can take away from the story.

I never used to be terribly detailed in my writing, preferring to get right to the point rather than wasting time and pages writing about irrelevant details.  Nonetheless, over time, I came to see the value in being detailed.  Minor details can sometimes turn out to be Chekhov’s guns (I previously reflected on this), and they add great depth to the world and the characters that inhabit it.

As somebody who always loved world building, I came to see details as being a prime opportunity for introducing things about the world that would otherwise be left out of the story.  My goal is to tell a story, not to write an encyclopedia about a fictional universe.  Because of this, aspects of the world that aren’t relevant to the story can often end up omitted, and unknown to the reader.  Some of these can be reintroduced to the story through minor details.

These details can be introduced everywhere.  Perhaps a couple characters share a little small talk between major events.  Perhaps there are some things in the background that might tell the reader more about the world; things mentioned in a location or character description.

Descriptions of characters are also good places to pay attention to details.  Pretty much everything I mention about a character says something about who they are, and give them more depth.

Plus, details add realism.  Mentioning some things the characters do between the big plot events can make them seem more like real people.  Plus, in a conversation, people often mention things that are a little less relevant to the main conversation topic, side notes, amusing anecdotes and whatnot.

I like to start the story a little bit before the important event happens, and show what the characters were doing and what was happening right before.

But at the same time, I can’t go too overboard with the details.  I am writing a story, not an encyclopedia of the world, and readers want to feel like they’re reading a story.  I should not go out of my way to give such details.  I still prefer to get right to the point in my stories.

Additionally, sometimes omitting details can be a useful tool.  Perhaps I want to leave something to the reader’s imagination, or perhaps revealing the detail would spoil something later.

One story I posted here some time back, Granny’s Café, was one where I really had to be careful about the details.  You can read the story here.  In that story, I described a world where the government had placed strict rules on legal food.  Throughout the story, I show many of the effects of these rules.

But I can’t be too detailed.  A society like I described in that story could never work.  Many of the food industries would go under, causing massive loss of jobs, financial issues, and other chaos.  I could probably think of explanations to justify all this if I was creative enough, but that goes too far away from the point of the story, and most readers will not care that I never explain it.

So, details definitely add to the stories.  They tell readers more about the characters and the world in the story, and provide opportunities to introduce things that will become Chekhov’s Guns.  However, overdone, they can interfere with the story, which is what the reader is probably most concerned about anyway.  Well, I suppose I’ve said what I’ve got to say, so this is White Rakogis, signing off.

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