Sunday, September 24, 2017

How to Edit (part 2): What to do with Details

I wrote an article about this before and I would like to, in a way, update the info there a bit. The reason is, I discovered more things during my own editing process (ongoing) and I would like to share my insights with you.

This is all about those details you put into your story in the beginning because you thought they were necessary. Most often I have found that these include the following:

Character's clothing style description

Character's hairstyle description

Character's facial features, size of height, and other details related to their body description

Scenery of the place where the character is

What other people around the character who are not given names are doing

Scenes where characters are looking at things and thinking about them

Lengthy conversation explaining things

Characters recalling past experiences

Characters thinking about their future in great detail

Characters that have a worry wart personality going into great detail about all the things that will go wrong

Explanation of characters who do not contribute to the story

and so on... yes, there's much more. And it also depends on the kind of fiction story you're writing. Historical fiction (which is something I have yet to try) might have details about the time period that might not actually be needed.

The reason I believe we writers put in so much detail is, in my opinion, the following:

We have these great ideas while we write and just want to put it into the story to not forget them

We are afraid the reader will not understand without those details

Because we are more focused on quantity rather than quality, we put in details (basically this happens when you do NaNoWriMo. I think it's a very common tactic to get more words down.)

Those are the three main reasons we put in a lot of detail.

Now, let me just say, I'm not saying to not put in any of those details. I'm saying not to put it in all at once. The reader doesn't need to know what color cloak the wizard was wearing and what color his eyes were when the character was being attacked. If this happens to be important at the moment, yes, put it in.

Maybe the color of the cloak shows how strong the wizard is. Maybe the character knows this and can counter it with a stronger spell because of the color of his own cloak. And he realizes this just in the nick of time and kills the wizard. And then, the story unravels...

See how I did that? The detail important at that moment can be included. In the previous article about details I just said to cut them out completely from the story but not all details need to be treated as unwanted trash.

Really though, use your judgement. And it's your story so you would know what details are important for this or that particular scene. Some detail about the color of a character's eyes, may, of course, NEVER be important in your story so your reader will just have to guess. And that's okay because, it wasn't an important detail to begin with.

In books, I actually rarely see any detail like that unless it has some significance to the character and the story. Not a real book but for example, a sister comparing her plain jane brown eyes to her older sister's beautiful blue ones and feeling inferior and the book is about her feeling inferior but then later she sees the value in herself.


Back to my previous article.

I said to cut all details out unless it contributes to the story. But what those details are, you need to judge. You need to be, as I said, brutally honest with yourself. Sometimes cutting those details out may have picked up the sluggish pace of your story that everyone was criticizing you about. Who knows? :)

If you have any questions or want me to clarify any points, feel free to leave a comment :)

Happy Writing!

No comments:

Post a Comment