Writing is a study in precision and nowhere is this more important than in the details that swarm around a good story. Details are like the last coats of paint on a new house, the finely sewn collar on a shirt or blouse, the delicate fondant icing on a wedding cake. They must be just right.
Not too much. Not too few. And certainly not too heavy or overwrought.
The right details turn a good story into a compelling one and as such, they can make or break a book. They can also take a good story and turn it into a hard slog for readers.
Every effective book requires two elements: good storytelling and good writing. Details are the link between the two that pull the whole together.
Adding details, though, should be done with caution. Overdone details — like too much jewelry — can strangle a story by overwhelming it. In fact, Coco Chanel’s advice on jewelry often applies nicely to story details: “Before you leave the house, take off at least one thing.”
Along the same lines, writers are often cautioned to “kill their darlings.” In choosing details, this is critical.
I’ve often said that a good book is like an intricately woven tapestry. Every detail must be woven carefully into the welt, blended by color, by exact tightness, and by a solid and carefully planned relationship to the whole. Details should neither be overdone nor underdone nor attached haphazardly. Too few details and you have a book that is not grounded, that will float around like a wayward balloon. Too many and you have a hoarder’s cluttered room where you must watch each step so as not to trip and fall.