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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Write on Wednesday: It's All In the Details

Today’s Write On Wednesday prompt by Becca discusses detail and how one uses detail in writing.


Specifically, she asks:

Are you detail oriented in your writing? What are some of the details you most notice in the world around you? What details do you focus on in your writing - place, character, emotional? What are the kinds of detailed descriptions you most like to read about?

While my work-writing is press releases and articles that have a “5 W’s and How” format, my personal writing is extremely detail-oriented. Maybe too much so!

I confess that when I “think” my mystery stories, I get bogged down in the details of the characters’ lives! I can tell you where the furniture is placed in the house, what they are wearing, what their environment smells like. I cannot tell you what happens in the next chapter, because plotting is not my strong suit! But boy, do I know those people!

I work with all the senses – and rely on them in almost every facet of life.

Art offers the visual.

Music can provide contemplation and sound...

While some music or performance offers a variety of sensual options -- color, sound, heat.

And communication is largely audio -- except when it's not! (We all know about body language!)

Knitting offers the texture.


Making sure nothing is dead inside my walls or garbage can work my nose.

And cooking is the ultimate sensual experience, using them all in force!

My use of senses as a strategy for working with detail ramped up for me as a theatre major in the early ‘70s in college, when “sensitivity training” was the buzzword for actors.

We would gather on an empty stage and the professor would pass out a bowl of grapes or cherries. We’d each take one and have to experience it –looking at the color, the texture and sniffing it.

Then we would place it our mouth. What does that smooth surface feel like to the tongue? Does it begin to dissolve on its own or do you bite into it? When you do, and hold the pieces in your mouth, how do they feel? Are they sweet, bitter, both? Is there a pit or seeds?

I don’t know if this made me a better actor, but we ate a lot of fruit.

And, I really started to observe everything with all my senses.

The way sand feels as you walk on a beach.

The way the water on the lake looks when it’s drenched in the colors of sunset.

The fragrance and texture of fresh herbs...

...or flowers.

The smell of pasta sauce cooking on a warm stove, combining garlic, onions, tomatoes – and how it feels on the tongue when mixed with soft noodles.

The coarse texture of Gypsy’s soft fur…
And how it contrasted with Stimpy’s satiny-smooth coat.

The sounds of the ocean and its crashing waves, their salty taste when diving in headfirst, and the splash of the surprisingly warm water.

When I journal, it’s all emotional. But when I observe, it transcends that. My observation is raw from the start, then moves into emotion and memory.

When I graduated from college and before I started graduate school, my mom and I went to England. While there, we took a bus tour to Stratford. As we left London on a bright September morning, I recall going over a hilltop bridge on the highway, passing between neighborhoods where the houses were close together, the rooftops tall and the yards small. I don’t know if it was the temperature that day, the clear sky, the sun, or the air, but at this time of year, as I drive to my office and go over a bridge near my house – an area entirely unlike that of my London route – I am immediately transported to that beautiful day.

Sense memory.

Yes, I recorded details in my travel journal, as I always do. But what I recall is far deeper than that. And maybe it needs to be recorded “for real.”

Becca offers a Write On Wednesday Extra Credit: As you perform a household chore that you do on a regular basis - making coffee, washing the car, cutting the grass - notice every detail of the process. The smell of the coffee grounds as you spoon them into the filter, the hiss of the water as it splashes against the car, the rumbling of the lawnmower’s engine. Write about your experience in great detail.

I’ll throw that out to you to try as well – not sure which one I’ll pick or if I post it. But I think it’s something I need to try!

11 comments:

  1. what a lovely post, so beautifully illustrated too!

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  2. Wow.....quite a post there! I do love smells. I smelled the first leaves being burned this fall just yesterday! I love that aroma. Thank you for being such a good visitor of my blog...I appreciate you.

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  3. What a great blog! I miss you, Miss Jeanie! I look forward to seeing you at Guild sometime though and reading your blog! :)

    Hugs,
    Kellie

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  4. Beautiful post as always! I love the photo of Stimpy. Your post made me stop and appreciated the small things after a long, bad day. Thank you.

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  5. Once again, I love the way you've integrated the topic into all these areas and notice how all these details of life do go together, and converge!

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  6. I'm always impressed with your ability to write about writing, blend pictures and words and explore different perspectives.

    Joanne

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  7. Your "write on wednesdays" posts are RIGHT ON!!!! I always try to use my senses. I Love to sit on my deck on a warm summer night when the world is asleep and listen to the summer night sounds, what a rush!
    xoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxo

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  8. You are so very good at combining your beautiful words and photographs to bring your reader into what you are saying. Lovely!

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  9. What a beautiful cornucopia of luscious details! A gorgeous post!

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