When do details matter?


Showing vs. Telling is a huge topic in the writing world. No self respecting blog can be considered a writing blog until this has come up in some way. I’ve read these articles till I know the whole subject backwards and forwards, and now I offer my own question. When does it really matter? Here’s a for instance:

“She hated doing laundry.”

“Work pants. Bathroom towels. Under shirts. She folded them all with the self-discipline of a monk. She folded them right out of the dryer, putting each item away as soon as it was folded, and did not hesitate until she was almost done. That was when she came to the part she hated. The jumble of little stuff that needed an impossible amount of sorting, matching, folding and everything else you had to do with laundry. The socks had to be seperated his and hers at the very least. Those wash rags needed rolled up and placed in order of color in the appropriate bathroom drawer.

She hated the order. She hated the little things.”

If I asked you which one was better, that would be too easy. Of course the second one is better. Of course it shows more. It tells us a lot about the laundry lady. We know that for some reason her house is very organized, and she herself is not organized. We know what part of laundry she doesn’t like. We can feel tension even though it’s a quiet moment. There’s a lot packed into this paragraph, even though it’s just laundry.

But did it matter? If the story had nothing to do with laundry, would this still have been a good scene to have?

What do you think?


Writers = Cannibals


In 2007, an aspiring horror novelist was arrested on suspision of murder. Police found portions of his girlfriend all over his house, and a manuscript entitled, “Cannibalistic Instincts.”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not that dedicated in my research. If my character is going to rob a bank, I’ll stick to watching movies like Swordfish. I’m pretty proud of my ability to keep my diabolical plots where they belong: in fiction.

Unfortunately, I’m not so proud of myself when misfortune strikes those around me. If you show up on my doorstep, bleeding, I’ll pass out the band-aids and the comfort, along with a few questions.

“Stabbed yourself did you? With what? How bad does it hurt? What does it hurt like? Burning? Throbbing? Can you feel the flesh sliding around? What does that feel like? No don’t just say it hurts, tell me in detail. Oh, yeah. Doctor. Let me get my notebook–I mean the phone. Let me get my phone.”

I can’t be the only one who hugs a friend while simultaneously pondering how to put his/her emotional torment into word form. Time to fess up. Do you do it too?