I have a quote in my files–I can’t trace the origin of it, but it helps:
By avoiding general description for specific descriptive detail, you give the reader an exact picture of the world you’ve created rather than allowing the reader to fill in the blanks. So instead of saying that a character ate at a “restaurant,” name the restaurant. This is important information. If a character goes into a McDonald’s or an Olive Garden, the choice about going to those particular places says something about the character. The descriptive detail adds to the characterization.
Another example: music.
Once, a student wrote a story about a father/son car trip and wrote a sentence about the music on the radio, except the writer didn’t describe the music on the radio. Instead, the writer said, “Dad turned on the radio and we listened to music.”
My first question was, what kind of music were they listening to? Country? Rock? Polka? Or better yet, what specific artist was on at the time? Or even better yet, what specific song? And do the lyrics of the song tie in with any aspects of the story itself?
Every detail should matter.
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