Posted by: Jodi | June 20, 2011

My results from the “Devil is in the Details” exercise

Last Friday I posted a writing exercise called “Devil is in the Details.”  In the spirit of fairness I will share with you what happened with my exercise.  This excerpt is from my current manuscript, “Stonebearer’s Betrayal”

I imagine Bremin is like this...

The door opened with a bang and a man, dirty from travel and smelling of horse, stepped in.  He surveyed over the room with a careful eye,  like a predator.   Jarand stood with a start and instinctively placed himself between the newcomer and Mirelle.

“What are you doing here Bremin?”

“I was in the area and thought there might be trouble.”  He eyed  the bandage on Jarand’s arm. “Am I too late?”

This scene does continue on past this point but for the exercise this chunk of text will do just fine.  My first impression is that the description of Bremin could use a bit more oomph, this is the first time he steps into the story and the reader could use a little more to hold on to.   I also would like to insert more action inside the dialogue, but that’s an exercise for another day.

Here is what 10 minutes of freewriting turned out:

Bremin was an average man, so average that one’s eye tended to slip over him in a crowd.  And that’s exactly what he wanted, to go through places and do his business unnoticed.  He always dressed in a shabby long coat that might at one time been fine but now was worn and tattered at the edge.  Jarand knew well that the inside of that coat was a different story, lined with dozens of pockets filled with tools and supplies that you could never catch him without.  Today he smelled, a robust mix of horse, sweat, with traces of the pine forest he had been riding and sleeping in for the last few nights.  In fact Jarand would have recognized that unique odor anywhere he went, Bremin’s scent was unique to him.

Bremin couldn’t be described as either fat or thin, but was a sturdy man nonetheless.  He wore layers upon layers of clothes making him look thicker than he really was.  Now, coming in from the cool weather, it was hard to see much but the space he left for his face under the stiff brimmed hat and above the crimson scarf around his neck.  A pair of worn gloves on his hands.  There was more than the cold that kept him wearing his scarf high, it also hid the markings that wound around his neck to beneath his ears.  Markings that would get him killed should they been seen out in the world.

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

My first mistake was doing this during the day with the kiddos playing in the next room.  Playing is the wrong word, banshee shrieking at each other is closer.  In the fifteen minutes I spent writing the first part of this post, I was interrupted ten different times with questions, requests, or calls for help.  Needless to say I didn’t churn out much stellar quality stuff.  I’ll consider myself lucky if I can use any of it.

The tidbits that caught my attention from the exercise are the details of his coat, hat, and scarf. Let’s see what happens to the original excerpt when more is added.

The door opened with a bang and a man, dirty from travel and smelling of horse, stepped in.  Jarand stood with a start and placed himself between the newcomer and Mirelle, the reflex an instinct from harsher times.  The man’s tattered long coat hung open at the top revealing a sweat stained, yellowed shirt.  At his neck hung a blood-colored scarf.  In the shadow of the stiff brimmed hat, Jarand could only make out a set of piercing blue eyes which surveyed the room with a quick eye,  like a predator.

It was sight of the scarf that allowed Jarand to relax, he would know it anywhere.  With a sigh he loosened his grip on the long knife that hung from his belt. “What are you doing here Bremin?”

Bremin removed his coat with great care and hung it on a peg.  Jarand knew the coat to be lined with hundreds of pockets containing everything from fire powder to seeds from the sacred Ubba tree. He often wondered what weighed more, the coat, or the man wearing it.

It wasn’t until Bremin had settled in the chair nearest the fire that he spoke, “I was in the area and thought there might be trouble.”  He eyed  the bandage on Jarand’s arm. “Am I too late?”

Tah-dah.  I’ll admit I took a few ideas and expanded on them, that’s fun part of adding detail.  Now to tackle the rest, wish me luck!

Happy Writing!

 

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Responses

  1. your expansion of thot is terrific. it is fun to see how you think. i am a fan.

  2. Great work. Someday you might discover that you will have a harder time writing without the kids around than it is with them! When they are around, you learn how to focus in ways you don’t need to otherwise!

    • It’s hard to imagine that day ever coming. But then if there is one constant in life it is it’s changing nature! Right now they are curled up watching the old animated Charlotte’s Web and giving me a break – at least movie night can buy me a few undisturbed minutes!

  3. Very interesting concept. The only thing I would add, is that you need to be sensitive to the scene, there are times when limiting the details provides a favorable effect, depending on mood.

    And I agree 100% that adjectives are often pointless filler, they really are the easy way out. Always take the time to think, really think hard about the details. I think a lot of the reason we use adjectives instead, is because we are familiar with them, they are vague and general. But if we take the time to scrutinize the detail, then it becomes much more unique in our description.

    Good post! Glad I found this blog 😀

    • That is a very good point, in an intense scene we don’t want the action to stop so that the writer can describe something. We also don’t want the prose so weighed down with description that the story never moves forward, regardless of the intensity level. This is where a fantastic beta reader or talented editor can really help. Finding the right balance is tricky business.


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