I spent a portion of the weekend revising chapters that my writing group critiqued last week. I was a little put off that one member of the group said a chapter was unpolished but a good first draft. What?! Well, she was right. It struck me that handing over pages for review is like submitting a police report. I provide the details as I see them but then the detective’s job is to ask more questions.
What color was the car? Was the car still running? Who else was in the store? What was she wearing? Could you tell us more about her surroundings? When X was standing in the hallway, where was Y?
The funny thing is that one member of my group is actually a police detective AND a damn fine writer. So her questions probe for details my mind has brushed past in order to get the story on paper. At times, I rush through the telling and need someone to slow me down and ask those questions that allow me to fully develop scenes and characters, to paint a picture that others can see as clearly as I do.
It also struck me that everyone – not just writers – can benefit from slowing down. When your spouse or significant other asks you to describe your day, do you rush through it perhaps missing those details that are most important to convey?
When you describe a movie, do you fall back on clichés like “lots of action” or “too much gore” instead of describing how the purple-haired, 12-year-old Hit Girl bounded through the narrow hallway like an acrobat, climbing the walls at times as she stabbed one bad guy after the other, finally landing on top of the last guy’s shoulders and stabbing him through the top of the head.
I’m just saying that life is in the details.