Friday, 25 October 2013

It's the Little things

By Catherine Hudson

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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.
 
 
Catherine Hudson lives in New Zealand where she homeschools her three girls and pens historical and contemporary romance. She recently finalled in the MARA Fiction from the Heartland contest.

16 comments:

  1. Its like that important clue that you just know will lead to the killer (In a mystery) or will open the case and its been so clearly mentioned a couple of times and then its not mentioned again and I go but what about such and such. A friend notices babys or kids mentioned in one place and the next they are somewhere different but no mention how they moved. I read a book once great prelude if thats how you say it. and then it went back to tell the story. at the end of the prelude someone was about to be caught. I finished the book and was going and who were they chasing which person. I knew why but didn't know exactly who was being chased and who the chaser was. I have heard the book has been re-released and some of these questions were answered but I actually wrote to the author to ask those questions. It was such a good book but it didn't answer the question so a 5 star book ended with a 3 star rating (I think) because it didn't end where it started it seemed to be a chapter or so short of answering those questions. I am not as visual when reading but if an author goes out of there way to describe something or make reference like say the calico cat maggie but then the cat isn't mentioned again I do get disappointed. (you can lose the dog that wouldn't worry me but a cat is different)

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    1. Yes I notice children are a little forgotten - in fact I did that in one of my manuscripts and had to make adjustments.
      That is a shame Jenny, I'm glad for other readers the author re-released the book. And I could not agree more on the cat. Mine is a like a capricious teenager but I sure notice when she is missing!

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  3. Hey! Great cake! Love the owls - got the design handy?

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    1. Thanks Annie. Actually I just saw one similar on the internet and copied it. I had the help of my super friend Cindy

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  4. I adore owls. Love that owl cake, Catherine. In a couple of novels I have found eye colour changes. Well, not unless they have coloured contacts, they don't. And wrong information like the book that old me Jesus turned wine into water.

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    1. Oh no Dale! That last one probably caused the author some grief after publication. I use Iola Goulton as my second editor eye after I've gone through thoroughly to try to ensure I don't make mistakes...but they do happen

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  5. Dale that must have been the teetotaler's bible (wine into water). I agree Catherine - it's important to keep the details consistent and to use memorable details that also tie into plot, characterization and setting in some way.

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    1. Thanks Jeanette. It certainly helps to draw us into the story

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  6. Thanks for that Catherine. It made me happy just looking at your cake. The love you put into the detail shows. It's a great reminder of how it should be with our stories.

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  7. Catherine your post was wonderful but I must admit I was distracted by that gorgeous cake.

    I add this to the comments above. I enjoyed your attention to the details that matter in all creative endeavors.

    I hope your mum had an extra special "0" birthday.

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  8. I agree, the cake was gorgeous. I love what you said about the little details too. It's interesting to think that every prop in a sitcom, which looks so casual, was chosen with great precision.

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  9. Cat, lovely cake - you are talented! The small details are important and add colour to the story. I prefer specific details to generic descriptions. If a character is eating ice cream, I want to know the flavour, lol. Thanks for sharing :)

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  10. Really interesting and challenging post, Catherine. In answer to your question, by mistake, I once changed my main character's name towards the end of a novel--my mind had flipped back to the main character from a PREVIOUS novel I had written! My two manuscript checkers didn't notice it but thankfully the editor did!

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  11. I have actually read a book where the author put the wrong name of the heroine in the book called her by the name of the heroine in the first book. it was a series of 3 and they were all friends but using the wrong name stuck out like a sore thumb.

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  12. I love that owl cake!! So many cool 'owls things' around in the shops of late!
    I also love your heart for writing and dedication to it.

    I've just changed a minor character's name. Still getting used to it, and I hope I don't slip into the 'old' name by accident. :)

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