We all as writers know the importance of finding clear, concrete details to use in our writing. Or at least we should. Chances are if you are any bit like me your first draft tends to focus on plotting and character development, and not much else. When the initial draft is done, then it’s time to work on the details. Actions, characters, locations, and items can all fall prey to bad or cliche description. It is work finding the perfect phrase or two (or twenty if you are the rambling type) to capture the picture in your mind’s eye and share it with the reader, but it’s worth every extra minute spent doing it.
When I talk about detail work, I don’t mean adding extra adjectives to phrases that already exist – that’s cheating and trust me, it doesn’t improve the story. I’m talking about descriptive passages that transport the reader to a new place, that immerse them into your story’s world.
Not every item, place, character, etc. needs an extensive introduction. Most can do with one or two additional details. Nor is it wise to perform info dumps, dropping mounds of description for everything mentioned in the text. If it is a fast paced scene, keep extraneous details to a minimum. If it is a slower scene then you have room to be more poetic.
For this exercise you will need:
- A section of previously written material, preferably something you haven’t looked at for a few weeks.
- Something to write on, your preference.
- 15 minutes of undisturbed time
Step one: Read through your writing as if you were a reader and not a writer, without stopping and thinking about grammar or word choice or anything else writerly. Look for and mark passages where you as a reader would like to see more.
Step two: Select one of these passages and copy it to a fresh paper or document.
Step three: For 10 minutes freewrite anything and everything that comes to mind when you visualize that moment, scene, or character. Most of this will be a truckload of garbage, but there are sure to be a few gems that pop out as well. Give yourself permission to write anything, no deleting allowed! (I suggest 10 minutes, you are welcome to go longer. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to get the brain jumpstarted and the good stuff doesn’t come out until the end of the time.)
Step four: Sift through what you have written seeking out images you like and plug them in to your work.
You get the idea. Repeat as needed.