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    Don't Let Your Details Dominate

    As our characters go about their business, we're usually picturing their movements in our minds as we write, and those movements often end up on the page in great detail. Sometimes too great.

    If your character is going to make a cup of coffee, for instance, you probably don't need to explain that she walked to the kitchen, filled the coffeemaker with water, got a filter out of the cupboard and placed it in the basket, opened the coffee and measured it into the filter, put the basket back onto the coffeepot, put the whole thing back under the water spout, and turned the coffeemaker on. Most of your readers know how to make coffee, and if they don't, they don't care about these details anyway.

    Careful use of details, however, adds verisimilitude to the lives of your characters. If your character is carrying on an interior monologue or a conversation with another character, one or two details of what she is doing physically can serve to break up the speech or thought and keep the reader grounded in the scene.

    In a suspenseful scene where the character thinks she is being stalked, and is listening for tiny noises outside the kitchen window as she makes the coffee, the inclusion of details can help build tension. Some details of time and place are necessary to establish setting. The trick lies in not overdoing them.

    One caution: if you are editing a story and watching for unnecessary detail to cut, be certain you don't cut something vital. If your character is leaving his apartment, you might not need to say that he put on his shoes and his coat and checked his reflection in the hallway mirror.

    If he also picks up the gun from his kitchen table and shoves it in his waistband, and he's going to use that gun later in the scene, the reader had better know that he took it. Readers can fill in the blanks for ordinary details, but tell them the extraordinary. After all, that's why they're reading!

    Do it! Write a 250-word scene in which a character is performing several tasks. Try to include only details which might be pertinent to the plot, characterization, or setting/mood.

    This article is excerpted from "The New Writer's Guide To Just About Everything" by Sherry D. Ramsey. This 115-page e-book features more than sixty sections, providing essential advice on a wide range of topics and geared for beginning writers. Read a review and download a FREE EXCERPT at Only $8.95! Order via secure server at Copyright © 2001 Sherry D. Ramsey

    Sherry D. Ramsey is a fiction and nonfiction writer, editor and Internet publisher. Sherry's web magazine, The Scriptorium, provides information, advice and inspiration for writers. Visit

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ

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    For excerpts, reviews and what you need to do to receive the 2 free e-books, Write Memories and sign up for free e-mail courses, just head on to the Weekly Writes Book Official Site. (Clicking on the link will open a new window.)


    The Journaling Life: 21 Types of Journals You Can Create to Express Yourself and Record Pieces of Your Life

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