The Balance of the Detail

When I created my little award the other day, I sparked an interesting discussion on the role of detail in writing.

So, for the sense of clarity, I’m going to go a little more into detail about what I meant. ūüėČ

I’m not arguing for long, drawn out passages of purple prose that try to paint a picture for the reader that would be better done through a visual. Nor am I arguing for sentences that wrap words around each other in a complex convolution that ultimately has no meaning or does not move the story forward. I’m the first person to skim through those verbose passages as my inner vision never matches the description anyway. I will put down a book that tries so hard to be linguistically beautiful that the author says nothing with a lot of words.

No, the magic details that I referred to are those simple details that bring a story or a passage to life. Those details could be expressed in a few words, but with those few words an entire character/place/emotion comes to life. Those are the details that I want to learn to weave more strongly into my own writing.

I’ve been reading argument paper drafts this morning. One of my students wanted to argue about gay marriage, and why it should be allowed. Now, I obviously support gay marriage, but this particular student’s paper was completely unconvincing. The only argument he used was the fact that in ¬†America “every man is created equal.” He kept repeating this argument throughout the paper, until he threw in a list I’ve seen before of sarcastic arguments about why gay marriage should not be allowed. (He also did not cite the list properly, but that’s a whole different issue). ¬†We all know that our country doesn’t ¬†really practice what it preaches, and gays are not the only ones who suffer because of it. So, without more details, his argument suffered because it wasn’t really an argument, it was a rant.

That’s my problem, rants without support. Rants without details.

As I was thinking about this post this morning (since about 4 am when insomnia struck again) I remembered a poem I wrote a while back that I haven’t really shared. Why? Because this poem came from the details around me, and I think those details support its meaning. It is not perfect, but I thought I would share. I am putting this in as a PDF, since I can never figure out how to make the formatting on my poems work.:

HOUSE OF BITTERNESS

So, to sum it all up, don’t worry that I am going to bore you with long, detailed descriptions of meaningless drivel. My challenge to myself is to learn to ¬†perfect my use of ¬†details, not to abuse them.

Finally I will share with you a couple of images I am stealing borrowing from my brother, because I love the details.

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