It seems that every year I’m reteaching the art of using details. There seems to be something ingrained in all young writers, one of those learned fallacies, that any reader can understand exactly what they are thinking, and with just a few vague jottings a reader will know exactly what it is being referred to in a few sentences. They will know exactly why that quote was dropped in, without explanation or course. They will know which character is being talked about or is doing the talking even if all that is written is “he,” or “she,” or my favorite, “they”. A reader will marvel at those one sentence critical responses like they do a zen koan. When my students say something is “fun,” or “awesome,” or “tasted really great,”(no, scratch that “scrumptious” is a better word). The assumption is that everyone, everywhere, will have experienced exactly the same, so why go into any greater detail about what it is you thought or truly experienced. And partly I can’t help but think that we all carry this idea within us, that everyone must surely know what it is that we are thinking, feeling, experiencing. No explanation required.
But writing is all about communicating this thinking, and all about those details.
So every year I have to start chiseling, hoping to find those nuggets of details hidden out of sight. I have to put a spotlight on details so they don’t seem like such a minor aspect of writing, but one of the most important parts.