By Catherine Hudson
I made a special cake this year for my mother’s birthday (the year of celebration shall of course remain unspoken in this post). As I laboured over the finer details of the icing—rolling and cutting, pinching and tucking—I was reminded that there are minor details in our characters lives that should not be omitted.
While describing every item in a room would labour a story and lose the reader, a well-placed item of singular importance should not be missed.
Any movie set has its props: the family photo on the wall, the wayward cushions, a rug, a scarf carelessly cast over a lamp. However, to create a real world image in a reader’s imagination, writers should also take such care to place the items that tell the story of the lives and habits of their characters.
It is often not the item that is important, but how our characters interact with it. As a reader I am drawn out of a story when a door is opened and not closed. If it is pertinent to mention it being opened, why not mention it being closed? I feel left behind with that door. While the character moves on, I’m thinking, “Yoo-hoo, the door is open!”
Perhaps others are not so visual. But dare authors take such a chance? We would do well to remember to add depth to our work using singular items, and by having purposeful character interaction with the items when on stage. Great effort goes into the research and construction of a novel—we must not forget the finishing touches.
What momentous or monotonous details have you found or missed when reading or writing?
As for me, I made sure to find the candles for my mum’s cake. After all, it’s the little things that count.