Dealing with Details

We’re gonna talk about writing today, so let’s get into it.

You can bog yourself down in too much detail. Don’t.  I’m not saying detail is not important and you can’t make it work (maybe you’re that special snowflake), but there is a difference between extraneous detail and necessary detail.  I’ve talked about this before, but it’s something I revisit from time to time because I have new readers, old readers who need a reminder, and, honestly, detail is something I carefully consider whenever I approach a new project or am hip deep in an existing project or when consuming any sort of media.

Extraneous detail is something that doesn’t add any sort of value to the work. A scar on a character can be a quick shorthand or a misdirect, but the fact a character likes lilac tea on a Tuesday is likely not going to factor into a work unless it does at which point it makes the jump into a third category of detail I always pursue: exquisite (which we’ll get to in a moment).

Necessary detail is just that. Stuff that is required to facilitate the story or the plot and contextualize everything. A love story on an island, a Manhattan high-rise, or in the dark ages of Rome is going to play out differently while still having romance at its core. Permutations of possibility is the shifting sand of story frameworks.

Exquisite detail is precise, salient detail adding to the conversation of a work. It’s something that is also provocative and full of potentiality. This potentiality awaits input from the reader, the writer, or in the case of interactive media, the collision and collusion of the player and GM.

You don’t want every detail to be exquisite. It’d be like casting another diamond grain upon a shore littered with them or, better yet, pouring all your spices into one dish, it’s going to be weird and exhausting.  And I’m not saying be too precious about the details or your words but keep a keen eye out for necessary details that can be refined into exquisite ones and do so judiciously. Unfortunately, judgement comes with time and raw talent, but can be developed like any other skill. Keep plugging away.


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