Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gratitude post #4: details

Let me say this very clearly: today I am grateful for details. You know why? DETAILS MATTER.

Some of my students are notoriously I-could-give-a-fig about details, and it makes me NUTS. So are, for that matter, lots of people in our culture. Hey, as long as I get the big stuff right, what's the problem? They're just small chunks. Details don't matter.

But let me ask you: who's to define what the "big stuff" is and what's not?

I cannot even tell you how many times my name has been misspelled in the last six months--book-related and otherwise. That matters to me, I must tell you. To other people, it's a detail. Think about details in a book, friends: it's kind of a big detail that we know Edward can't be in the sunlight, yes? But what about knowing how hard and cold his chest is, and, despite this fact, Bella likes to snuggle with him? That small detail, to my eyes, is almost more important, because it gives us clues to understanding Bella.

Yes, I've heard it again and again: don't sweat the details. Well, the devil is in the details. And you should sweat the small stuff.

In my current work in progress, I'm figuring out details for characters. Hair color, clothes, that kind of stuff. But also small details like how Ray bounces from foot to foot while he talks, because he's really just kinetic energy contained in a body. Small stuff like Callie's dark circles under her eyes, because sleeping brings her nightmares.

I'll say it again: DETAILS MATTER. Sweat the small stuff. Get it right. It matters to the story. And to life.

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