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Packing Heat 101: Double Duty Detail

Packing Heat is a podcast I've been putting out since 2008. My goal is to help other writers stay motivated, and to encourage them to take their writing to the next level. You don't need special gadgets to listen; Packing Heat plays in your browser, like YouTube. These are this week's show notes:

Adding Detail

I’ve noticed a lot of writers get stuck on how, when and which details to add to their stories. Some stories take place in a vague vacuum rather than a location. Some have detailed things happening that have nothing to do with plot, character, theme or any other important story element. So what’s a writer to do?
Let’s look at this sentence:
She walked through an elegant door into a large drawing room.
 
The verb is pretty boring. What if it was:
Traipsed
Paused
Faltered
Then it would do double duty: how does she feel? How does she act? How do her actions demonstrate the way she feels?
 
How about that large drawing room:
Cavernous
Drawing room the size of her apartment
Drawing room so large she needed to sweep her gaze from one end to the other to take the whole thing in
A room so large it seemed more like the lobby of a hotel than a person’s home.

Description: Elegant, large, they’re both generic. To say something is large gives you no feedback on the character.
 

Oversaturation

Some writers try to stuff in so much detail the prose becomes oversaturated with detail that doesn’t ultimately drive the story.
She pulled a Marlboro light 100 from the two-thirds empty pack with shaking, paint-speckled hands, and struck a match from a dog-eared book that advertised the motel on Highway 78 that had gone out of business last winter.
Overly detailed prose is tiring to read.

Key Frames

In animation, the key frames are the beginning, apex, and end of a motion. Can you think about your scene in key frames? What are the important parts? Those are the points at which you should make sure your verbs are descriptive and your adjectives aren’t generic.

Your Assignment

Name the key frames in the scene you’re currently working on. Are your descriptions pulling double duty there?

Have a listen! 16 minutes
 

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