|Great novels are full of details that draw the reader into the story.|
So as I read, I’ve been paying attention to details, especially as they relate to setting. In The Shattering, Karen Healey propelled me up the New Zealand Coast from beach to deserted town. I found myself sorting through racks of stained glass and watching the progress on a rehabbed Victorian mansion in Lisa Kleypas’ Rainshadow Road. Vanessa Diffenbaugh had me sorting through blooms to put together just the right arrangement and wondering the fragrant stalls of the flower market in The Language of Flowers.
The details in each of these settings made what I was reading tangible and touchable. If I ever found myself in one of these places, I would instantly recognize it.
But beware giving details about a place you’ve never been and something you’ve never experienced. An inaccurate detail will yank your reader out of the story and make them question everything else in the book.
Recently, I read a novel about a character on a lengthy trip. As she travels, she eats things she’s never had before. The author describes the character sitting and sipping her Blizzard.
Wait a minute. I know this takes place in the summer but how long has she been sitting there? Either the author has never had a Blizzard or she meant to indicate that more than a few minutes had gone by. Whichever one it is, this one trivial detail pulled me out of the story.
Be careful writing about a food you’ve never had or a place you’ve never been. Sensory details are tough when you’ve never had that particular experience. Is a lion cub’s fur soft or coarse? What does an orange grove in the warm sunshine smell like?
Before you write something like this down, check it out or talk to someone who has experienced it, because an inaccurate detail will pull a reader out of your story twice as fast as an accurate detail draws them in.
SueBE blogs at One Writer's Journey.