It’s all in the details

I’ve been cleaning out my office this week, which, as usual, has turned into an exercise in personal archaeology. One thing I found, to my surprise, was a very early draft of the opening of Bones of Faerie.

I had the opening of this book long before I had a story to go with it–before I moved to Tucson, even–so finding that old opening in my old notebooks wasn’t too surprising in itself. But it was fascinating. In some ways, the opening hadn’t changed hardly at all: the content was the same, the rhythm of the language–something I used to spend endless hours and endless rewrites working on–was pretty much the same.

What changed was something I hadn’t yet realized I needed to spend endless hours on: the small descriptive details.

So “clear blue eyes” became “eyes silver as moonlight off the river at night.” “Faerie-light hair” became “Faerie-pale hair clear as glass from Before.” That sort of thing.

The descriptions became somewhat less generic. At the same time, they became more grounded in the small details of the protagonist’s world. They became part of the worldbuilding–telling the reader that there’s a river, that there was glass once but isn’t anymore, even that there’s a Before that the story happens after.

I’m remembering, now that one of my rewrites of this novel, even once I had a complete story, was all about revising my descriptions: grounding them in the world the protagonist, Eliza, lived in and thought in.

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