Details Can Kill Your Story

AlPhilipson100x90by Al Philipson

A good story often involves a number of details. Plots, people, and things that often come together at the end to produce the all-important climax.

Along the way, you’ll include a number of things which may or may not be important to the story. Keeping track of these things over the months it takes to write a novel can be daunting at best and impossible at worst, especially if, like me, you forget things easily (why did I come into this room?).

Some readers may not notice when you change some detail, but many will and some will take great delight in pointing it out to you — publicly.

Characters wander in and out of scenes and are described to the reader. Now, if in the first scene, your hero has flashing green eyes, it can be awkward if in a later scene his girlfriend gazes deeply into his sky blue eyes. Perhaps you should create your characters carefully and write down a description along with some other pertinent information so you won’t forget those embarrassing details.

But characters aren’t the only things that can trip you up.

Historical references are the bane of many authors, especially if they write stories in an historical setting.

Scene settings need to be kept consistent as well. If you have a fireplace on a north wall of a room, it should still be there the next time someone enters that room and anything in that room you’ve described should still be there, in the same place (unless it’s been moved for a reason), and look the same. A brass fire poker in a wrought iron rack to the right of the fireplace should still be in an iron rack and the poker should still be brass and the set should still be on the right. If any of those things have changed, a character should notice it (especially if it’s important — such as if the placement of the rack opens a secret door).

Like characters, the best way to keep track of these little details is to write it down somewhere and refer back to the data sheet when you encounter the location again.

How about people from another culture? Do they have taboos, beliefs, a different calendar, unusual patterns of speech, strange words they use, distinctive physical characteristics or body markings? Write the information down and refer to it often.

Overall, the best way to keep your story consistent is to make notes either before you write about something or as you write something/someone up the first time.

Al Philipson is a science fiction author with several published works including a collection of 4 short stories (SciFi Four Pack) and a full-length novel, Children of Destruction. His next novel with the working title of Escape from Earth, is in development along with it’s sequel, God’s Assassin.
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