The discussion of the power of a single detail in episode 152 of The Journeyman Writer podcast reminds me of the consideration of Anton Chekov’s idea of the “telling detail” in the Gotham Writer’s Workshop book Writing Fiction. In the chapter “To Picture in Words” Chris Lombardi gives us insightful ways to think about the power of this kind of detail.
A telling detail does what it says: it tells the essence of what it’s describing… A telling detail can speak volumes in a very short amount of time. They help you achieve a golden mean—enough description to paint the picture, but not so much as to weigh it down.
Dang. It is just astounding that humanity has now measured the strain on spacetime produced by a black hole merger.
Thanks for the fantastic breakdown of this breakthrough, PBS Space Time!
Time for some serious monotasking.
Today’s Note To Self podcast mini-episode starts a week-long social social science experiment by instructing participants to live life at the speed of one thing at a time—to be monochronic if we must get technical about this. With this charge to be single-minded in today’s activities, it’s time to do whatever it takes to keep focused on what’s at hand—time to use an email auto-reply, turn on do not disturb mode, take off the smartwatch, work in wifi-free zones, maybe even set up a mini Zen rock garden. Should make for some good opportunities to do some deep work.
It feels like all the things my undergraduate fiction writing classes didn’t cover or skimped on are given insightful attention in this highly readable resource. Here are some points that really resonated with me…
Think of yourself as a collector—of sensations, of objects, of names. Especially names.—Chris Lombardi
The first job of a story’s beginning is to start at the right time.—David Harris Ebenbach
With the first few paragraphs of a story of novel, you make a contract with the reader. You agree to tell a particular kind of story in a particular voice. Whatever you contract to do, as with POV, you contract to do it consistently.—Peter Selgin
The beginning of a story has to get three things done: it has to drop the reader right into the middle of the action, it has to provide all the necessary background information to get the reader up to speed, and it has to establish the major dramatic question.—David Harris Ebenbach Continue reading
Every story is about saving the world. The only question is: what is the world you’re saving?—Max Gladstone
It’s so fantastic that the Cambridge Public Library has an author speaker series for National Novel Writing Month! The last session on world building with Max Gladstone was fully of lively discussion and great perspectives about creating immersive, coherent worlds in fiction. One point that really stood out to me was a world-centric view of stories that Max mentioned, quoted above. In the days following his talk, I found myself looking at story after story through this lens, considering the sorts of worlds various characters are trying to save—a microcosm of interconnected friendships, the Candy Kingdom, a starship full of spacefaring humans, the inner life and family life of a tween… I love how applicable this way of looking at narratives is.
I wish the NaNoWriMo Author Insights speaker series could go on and on beyond November… Fortunately, it seems like there are always author talks and more on the library calendar!
It’s been another wonderfully stimulating week of public broadcasting. NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast consists entirely of a witty, informative interview of Aziz Ansari by Shankar Vedantam on patterns of romance-related behavior (word of caution: a lot of bleepings in this one), while in another corner of NPR, the TED Radio Hour looks at our ability to change. And PBS Space Time once again does a fantastic job nutshelling intriguing topics, this time laying out how to thwart killer asteroids in not just 1 or 2 but 5 ways!
I love how these podcasts and videos build out the story of who we are as a species.