Wise Wednesday: Details, Details!

Fiction writing, especially fantasy, is often considered to be the easiest field of writing. Raise your hand if you disagree. In fantasy, we don’t get to just build a plot in an existing world, we have to make the world too. And unless you’ve been there, done that, maybe you don’t realize how much DETAIL there is in building a world!

Look at your desk/table/writing space for a minute. How many individual things do you have sitting around you? I’ve got pens, notes, art pencils, an energy bar, headphones, tea, stacks of books, leaves, rocks, cds, tablets, nuts, a Bible, a grimoir I recently started to keep track of random magical ideas, altoids, earrings… Are you seeing the picture? These things give a picture of who I am.

Now, here’s a little exercise for you: write a 50-word scene of a girl sitting at her desk. Write it in your normal style, the normal level of detail. Now reread it out loud, and see how clear a picture you painted. Does she have a lamp? Books? Snacks? What kind of chair does she have, is she listening to music? What genre?

This is one desk, in a real world. You, as a fantasy author, have to figure out what else would be on that desk in your world. It’s actually a really useful exercise. What books does she have? Notebooks full of herbal remedies? Histories, mythologies, dog-breeding? Do they even have books? What sort of snacks would be on her desk, or is she not allowed to have snacks? What sort of paper exists? Have pencils been invented?

At first glance, this seems like overkill on the details. Really, we don’t need to know every little bit of the heroin’s life, right? Right. But consider this a snapshot, a chance to give the reader a little, quick glimpse of the world you are asking them to believe in. Maybe the girl is reading “Advanced Theories of Human-Sapien Psychological Comparisons”, and snacking on fresh fruits from her mother’s garden. Or perhaps she’s reading a fairytale to her son and feeding him bits of bread and cheese. All of these things are a little tie to a realistic world, things we might do ourselves (Ok, so maybe not reading “Advanced Theories”, but you get the idea!) or at least are similar enough to give us a comfort with the character.

You don’t even have to put this in your story. Write it for yourself. Possessions, keepsakes and collections are valuable insight into the character and world, and may give you other ideas, or allow you to deepen your character. It also is a little more relatable than talking about “Advanced Theories of Human-Sapien Psychological Comparisons” and why that makes the world special.

Or at least to me it does. Whatever the case, details can make or break your story, your world, and this is a comfortable place to start and study.

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One Response to “Wise Wednesday: Details, Details!”

  1. *raises hand* I completely agree with you! Having written both, I definitely feel that it is more difficult for me to write in a fantastical world than it is in our world. Well, perhaps difficult isn’t the proper term. Rather, say instead that it takes more of imaginative capacity to do so.

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