Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Beauty is in the Details

I have one of those fancy DSLR cameras but I'm no photographer. Ask me to take a wide angle shot of  my kid's birthday party and it won't look any different than if I'd used a Polaroid camera (if you aren't old enough to remember Polaroid pictures then get off my blog...and my lawn).

Granted I know very little about how the damn thing works, or any photography basics, for that matter. And since I bought it second hand I only have the Spanish version of the owners manual. I don't speak Spanish. Additionally, I'm far too lazy to look up the manual online, so I fumble around to the best of my abilities, which are sorely lacking and will never produce an amazing picture of my 4 year old blowing out her birthday candles.

What I am reasonably decent at is zoomed in photographs of the small details. Why, you ask, can I capture the tiniest mushrooms growing under a fallen log in the Olympic National Forest and make you feel like they were the most incredible part of the forest (they weren't)? Because I see how to frame the mushrooms in the picture, how to highlight their color, and how to give them presence.

Because I'm a writer. Details are what I DO. 

I could tell a story like this: A woman had lunch on the patio of a restaurant and a good looking man walked by. 

Or like this:  The faint scent of cologne trailed behind him as he passed her table. Winding silken strands of hair around her fingers, she commited the masculine build of his shoulders to her memory. Cool wind caressed Violet's cheek as she continued to watch him, allowing the rest of her lunch to remain untouched. Hot pink embarrassment blossomed across her face as the waiter cleared his throat from the other side of the table. 

Which story would you rather read? That's what I thought. 

The beauty of any story is in the details, my friends. There is no story to tell without them. When reading a book, you're going to lose interest pretty quickly if you can't imagine where the characters are, what they look like, or how they feel. 

But remember, there is a FINE LINE between beautiful description and Purple Prose. If you find yourself going into long-winded soliloquies about the color of the grass, you're in need of a dose of humility. Don't be so in love with seeing your own words on paper that you write just to hear yourself sound eloquent (which, in my opinion, is the crux of the Purple Prose phenomenon). 

Make it beautiful, make it simple, and make it vibrant. Your writing will improve seven fold when you find that balance.