The Devil in the Details – Jekyll Post 1

You’ve heard that saying before, right? And it is so true. Whether you are reading a book, watching a television show or having a simple conversation with a friend, it is the details that catch your interest.

In today’s post, I’m taking a look at detail, and the reason for the focus is: I just attended an incredible writing workshop on Jekyll Island with a group of writing friends.Our very first session was a discussion about detail, specifically imagery in writing. Our instructor used a quote from famous artist, Georgia O’Keefe to get us thinking: “Take time to look.”

So look we did, at common objects. Our workshop setting, historic Jekyll Island off the far southeast coast of Georgia, had plenty to offer in the way of common beach objects, i.e. shells. Each participant took one and then studied it. How would you describe it? I looked at my sea shell from three views. After reading them, can you imagine what the shell looks like?

My shell is like:

A large, curious cat’s ear, cupped and concave, the inside surface smooth and soft, the outside rough, furrowed and without hair;

A small brown wren, head bowed, wings outstretched, open and spread, feathers merging into a solid shape like a protective shield;

A cup, with serrated edge for scooping sand from the beach to create a moat where tidewater runs around the castle, soaks into the sand, and disappears.

(I’ll post a picture of the shell tomorrow (technical difficulties today) so check back to see what it looks like.)

Meanwhile, back to details. Can you see in your mind what this one shell looks like, if all three descriptions are true? What image comes to mind? I compared the shell with three objects, a cat’s ear, a wren and a cup. Perhaps the wren is the hardest to visualize, but think about those wings, spread and protective. Can you see the shell?

Details draw on our memories and our emotions. They connect us with the writing, the program, or the conversation we are part of. In my second mystery, Ant Dens, I hope you enjoy the detail I’ve used to paint the story. Here’s the book’s first paragraph, Chapter One:

Ben’s spirit swirled around me in the rain-fresh afternoon air, stinging my heart like cactus spines. Maybe I had been wrong, maybe I was not ready to come home to the place where I had lost my husband 18 months ago. My boots clunked as I walked and my long skirt blew around me in the pine-scented breeze.

“Mrs. Aldrich?” An all too familiar voice called.

My heart plummeted into my stomach. The burly brown-skinned man charged across the parking lot like an angry bison. Sweat glistened on his forehead in spite of the cooling breeze sailing in from New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Every muscle in my body tightened. I smoothed my long hair back into the ponytail and swiped my little finger under my eye to remove any trace of tears.”

Can you see this encounter? Do the details show what Jamie Aldrich felt, and how she looked? How about the appearance of the man, Sheriff Jonah Clay. Can you see him? I hope you can. And I hope the details kept you reading, and imagining the scenes in the book.

Do you have a paragraph or scene in Ant Dens that you particularly loved for the detail? If so, please share it with me!

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