“Only about 5% of the value of details is found in descriptions while 95% of the value is about advancing the story objectives and enhancing the reading experience.”
When I wrote this quote yesterday, I was not sure if other writers would understand what could comprise that other 95% of details. Then a few minutes ago I was reading a post by Candace Calvert on Facebook about a garden tour and it make me think of a good example of the richness of details when used as more than description.
Here is my example as it came to me just a few minutes ago.
I’m a big fan of cuttings – especially in romances. A plant may be just a flower in an author’s description of a cottage. This may be used to make the cottage seem more ‘real’. However, if it is a cutting taken from the old country when the owner left Ireland, then it has significance and can carry emotion.
If it was a gift from the hero’s mother before she died, then the plant is a living reminder of his mother. This creates sympathy for the hero. It’s something the reader can begin to feel.
If the mother was unjustly killed by a British soldier and fell near that plant, then seeing the flower may well cause an outrage of emotion against the injustice.
Now we are making the reader really feel the story.
If it is the first year the plant is in the new country soil and it is not known if the plant can live through an Oklahoma summer, then this creates an anticipatory event – something for the reader to look forward to among many other AEs the author has set up to keep the reader turning pages.
If the plant struggles and survives as the story progresses, that could mirror the hero and heroine going through analogous conflicts in the narrative.
In the epilogue the blossoms from the plant could be used for a wedding bouquet or garlands. To complete the cycle, cuttings from the plant could be given to special guests.
All this comes from one flower. And this is only one detail in a description that could have had many other descriptive details. Such details can do double and triple duty in advancing the story and enhancing the reader’s reading enjoyment.
This is why I say that details are only 5% description and 95% the potential to advance the story in a dozen different ways. Thanks again to Candace Calvert for stimulating my imagination with her many interesting posts on Facebook.