I am a writer and mom. One of my many talents in my mom role is keeping my house organized and knowing where things are. That’s not to say my house is always tidy, but it’s organized to me. My husband often asks me where things are at, and 9 times out of 10, I know right off the top of my head.
He’ll say, “Hey, Jess, where’s the soy sauce?”
I’ll say, “In the fridge.”
He’ll say, “I looked there.”
I’ll say, “Try the bottom shelf, on the left, behind the milk.”
He’ll say, “Oh, there it is. How did you do that?”
I’ll say, “Magic.”
But it’s not really magic. It’s just that when I put the groceries away, I noticed the cap of the soy sauce looked kind of crusty, and I thought to myself, I really ought to clean that. I never will, of course, but I’ll think about it every time I see that darned soy sauce. In other words, I’m noticing the little details of my mommy domain.
As a writer, I am intimately familiar with all the little details in my stories, but are those details coming across to the reader? Will the reader get that the glint of light off the blade reminds the heroine of the bright, steel-gray gaze of the hero? It might be obvious to me, but this is my character and my world. Someone on the outside looking in might have to “move the milk” to find what my writer’s eye simply knows is there.
But how do you know what’s coming across successfully and what’s not? Well, like with anything in life, it takes practice. Start by taking notes on what you’re reading. Are there places where the author does a great job of including just the right amount of detail? Having a critique partner is an invaluable tool. There’s nothing like a fresh set of eyes to diagnose an overabundance or a dearth of detail.
Do you struggle to know how much detail to include in your work? Or do you have a strategy for striking just the right balance? If so, please share.