There are details, and then there are Details

tjw152The 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.

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Open Notebook: Gotham Writer’s Workshop Writing Fiction book

1023 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