Sunday, January 18, 2009

Details, details, details – they do a lot more than you think

A few weeks ago I went to one of our favorite family owned restaurants. After we’d ordered and got our food, I noticed that unlike the norm, this time they’d not added the colorful bit of garnish they usually placed on the dishes they served. While the food was as good as ever, the missing bit still, weirdly enough, detracted from our dining experience. Now that the garnish was missing, I understood how much such a simple thing had actually added to the enjoyment of the meal. So while something that on its own may not be all that important, in the big picture of things, for the whole, the minor detail had added more than anyone would have thought.

Following this realization, I decided to mentally take it further as it drove home an old writing point.

One of the lessons writers have to learn, and sometimes have trouble with is to make sure to expand and include some of the other senses aside from just sight to their descriptions of scenes, locations, actions, people. The added details and dimensions in and of themselves do not seem to mean a lot, but when combined with the whole, the ambiance, the mental picture being related to the reader is richer, deeper, gives them more to work with and gives many times its weight to bring the situation home and make people more involved. Thus enhancing their overall experience.

Think of it as taking a two dimensional picture and making it 3D. Of giving something just that needed touch, or extra bit of garnish to take it from the mundane into the exceptional – to make it vivid and full of life.
Hmmm, an example would be nice, wouldn’t it? *wracks brain wracks brain wracks brain*

2D---Jake strolled down the busy street, the sound of vendors filling the air as they attempted to entice the passersby into looking at their wares.---

Okay think about the image in your mind at this point from the bare bones description. Now read the next one.

3D---Jake strolled down the street, dodging the other pedestrians who streamed to a fro in the busy street. The scent of baked bread and freshly cut flowers swirled through the morning breeze with the voice of vendors as they called out to the passersby trying to entice them to look at their wares. The awnings for the store fronts swept a wide cascade of colors, making the manmade street a garden in its own right.---

See the difference? Like going from plain black and white to Technicolor.

Yes, like in all things, you can get carried away or you can numb or bore the reader by using too much of it. But a nice sprinkling here and there can make a world of difference in the visions you’re trying to create and how successful you are at it.

Don’t take away my garnish, less it spoil the scrumptious meal and leave me wanting. Just the right touch or detail can mean ever so much more than what you had to start with.

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