Monday, November 24, 2008

Words on Writing - The Passage of Time and Little Details

Even if the character doesn’t noticeably change, and neither does his immediate surroundings, some things can’t help but change with the years. Some things grow (plant life); other things inevitably deteriorate with age. Things become modernized as they have to be replaced. After all, that fridge in the kitchen will not last fifty years seemingly untouched by time. It might be an old time ice box from before the age of refrigerators, then be replaced with an early style fridge, eventually becoming more modernized as each one has to be replaced. (Just as an example, assuming the character even has one. Or it might be a fridge at a place the character frequents, even if that frequency is once every decade. A change like that the character is certain to notice). Similarly, horses and wagons eventually become replaced by increasingly modernized cars. Everything has a finite lifespan, whether it is a fruit fly or something that lasts for eons. A small sapling tree will grow and grow, becoming a massive tree and eventually dying. A stone wall will weaken and crumble over time. Look around you; everything is touched in some way by the passing of time. Pick things that can be described well by you and easily be identified by the reader. It is little details that make a story. The odd little things that might catch one persons eye while no one else in the room even noticed. (Amidst the crowd of mourners packed into the room like cattle in a cattle car on the way to be rendered, Annie alone noticed the little loose thread sticking out mournfully from the fabric of the seat where Mrs. Peckham sat. Annie stared at that thread, mesmerized, unable to look away. A stray thought teased at her mind. With all these people staring at Mrs. Peckham, watching her sit there lost in her private world of grief, weeping for her child so tragically torn from her breast by the drunk driver, what does that thread mean? Is the chair unraveling in sympathy to the shattered lives of all the mourners who’ve sat there day after day? She looked around, wondering if anyone else saw the thread and what thoughts it provoked in their minds.) No matter how farfetched and deep within the realm of the unbelievable a story may lay, it’s the little details that suggest it might just be possible. It’s the ability to sell the story as a “what if”, the idea that just maybe this *could* be real if our world were shaped a little differently … that is what makes a good story.

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