Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pay attention! It will benefit your book.

It's the little things in a book that touch the heart and senses and cause the reader to settle into the story, accepting the setting as something so integral to the plot that it becomes a minor character.

I read a book 28 years ago that had a scene of an old woman welcoming a visitor to her home. The visitor was younger and had better eyesight. She could see that although the woman pretended all was well, she wasn't able to maintain her home to previous standards. The telltale sign? -- Cobwebs emerging from the corners.

I've never forgotten that little detail, and it enriched the story for me.

Over the holidays my 15-month-old granddaughter was visiting. She loves my wall clock. It chimes on each quarter hour and tolls the number of hours at the top of the hour -- Westminster chimes, pretty. I've lived with a chiming clock for 34 years, and to tell the truth I don't even notice when it ticks off the minutes of my day. But my grandbaby stops whatever she's doing when she hears the chimes. Her eyes light up, she claps, and she even sings along with the chimes.

That's a great example of paying attention and noticing the setting. If I were to write a book and use a clock like mine in it, the chiming could assume a greater significance. It would heighten tension in certain situations and dredge up memories for my characters. I could play with the clock as a device other than as a simple timekeeper.

How about you? What little details do you think could deepen a story?

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