Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Write on Wednesday - Attention to Detail

This week's Write On Wednesday prompt asks the questions:
Are you detail oriented in your writing? What are some of the details you most notice in the world around you? What details do you focus on in your writing - place, character, emotional? What are the kinds of detailed descriptions you most like to read about?

Write On Wednesday Extra Credit: As you perform a household chore that you do on a regular basis - making coffee, washing the car, cutting the grass - notice every detail of the process. The smell of the coffee grounds as you spoon them into the filter, the hiss of the water as it splashes against the car, the rumbling of the lawnmower’s engine. Write about your experience in great detail.

I like to think of myself as detail oriented, especially in my writing. I love to read about the rich sounds of the big city, the alluring smells of the corner bakery, the magical sights of a lone country road, the touch of a tiny baby animal or the taste of an apple picked fresh from the tree. These details enrich my reading experience and make me strive to be a better writer.

All too often, we get caught in the trap of writing for the sake of writing - trying to hurry through the days word count or page count without stopping to make sure the words are the best that they can be. Many, many times, this is what happens with my first drafts - boring words with no attention to the details.

However, once I have the "bones" of a story on paper, then I can jump into the fun part of writing. Adding the color of my hero's eyes: are they sparkling blue like a midsummer's day, or swirling green like the changing forest? Adding the sounds of the current environment: is the town old and dying, or is it fresh, new and growing? Adding the taste and texture of the heroine's evening meal: is it spicy and hot with a flair for the exotic, or is it the comfort food of a lip smacking hot dog? Adding the smell of the current surroundings: is it salty from the spray of the sea foam, or is it dusty from the mountaintop coal mine? Adding the sensation of touch is sometimes hard: does the heroine's dress feel thread-bare and worn, or is it starchy and stiff?

With the onset of autumn - my favorite time of year - my attention to detail is heightened. The blazing rainbow of colors as the sugar maple trees start to turn, the deepening yellow color of the goldenrod as it ages, and the white snowflake blooms of the frost asters as they dance above the meadows.

Overhead I hear the loud honking of the geese as they make their way to winter parts unknown, the crackling and popping of a backyard bonfire, and the crisp, wet crunch as I bite into a freshly picked pear or apple. I love to touch the dew drops as they glisten and cling to all the garden foliage, feel the rough texture of the corn shocks as I make arrangements in my front yard, or the smooth feel of the pumpkins fresh off the vine. Autumn brings the taste of sweet and gooey carmel apples, the spicy hot flavor of a huge pot of chili, and the warm aromatic tastes of hot cocoa or apple cider. The smells of autumn are probably the best from the damp, wet leaves littering the sidewalk to the clear, fresh breeze after a rain shower to earthy fragrance of the late blooming herbs.

Paying attention to details and describing to your audience the five senses are the best way to draw the reader into your story. Being able to picture yourself in the situation be described is the hallmark of a good author.


Washing the Dang Dishes

I'm not a domestic goddess and I don't play one on TV. Although I like a nice, clean house, I hate wasting time with everyday household chores. As a matter of fact, I have a cross-stitched sign hanging in my kitchen that I completed back in the early 80's:
"My Home is Clean Enough to Be Healthy, and Messy Enough to Be Happy!"
This saying suits me to a tee. But what is the one chore I absolutely despise? Washing dishes ...

On week's when I'm especially "lazy" I may go two or three days between washings. My philosophy - If I have one sink clear of dishes, then I'm doing okay. The problem with my irregular dish cleaning routine is the fact it causes me more work in the long run.

Drip, drip, drip - filling the dishpan with hot scolding water, I'm now letting some cooler water even out the temperature. Glasses first, some coated with leftover chocolate milk, stained from herbal tea or - oh my heavens, is that mold in the bottom of my hubby's coffee cup? - yuck! It takes elbow grease to finally make them squeaky clean. OMG - what is that smell? Last night's spaghetti and meatballs scrapes have hardened on two plates, salad dressing has dried in three bowls, and is that mashed potatoes still covering the bottom of a serving bowl from two nights ago? I'm surprised we haven't all been sick, just from the fumes escaping the sink! Scrub, scrub, rinse, rinse - then scrub, scrub some more.

The plates and glasses now glisten and gleam, it's on to the silverware. How do so many forks, knives and spoons accumulate when there are only three people in our home? Spaghetti sauce, garlic butter and the same mashed potatoes coat several spoons and forks. I swear, I will never let the dishes get in this shape again? Never, never ... but granny always said, "Never say never."

Why is it my nose always itches just as soon as I put my hands into hot, soapy water? It never fails and I end up with the same soapy water dripping from my nose. Now I have nice clean silverware to go with the clean plates and glasses, so the only thing left is the dirty pots and pans. As I left the lid from the skillet, I'm hit in the face with the molding smell of last night's spaghetti sauce - why didn't I take care of this last night? I guess the same could be said for the mashed potato pot from two nights ago.

Okay, go ahead, say it - you know you want to! I need to do the dishes every night - yeah, like I haven't been hearing that all my life. But the problem is, nighttime is the only time I get to spend with my hubby and I would rather spend it talking or laughing or making love, than standing at the boring sink doing the boring dishes. After all, I cook supper didn't I? My hubby said the meal was delicious, didn't he? And he doesn't care about the dirty dishes, as long as I can maintain that one open sink - and he and my daughter are the only ones that matter.


Jeanie said...

Washing the dishes! I love it. Yes, I know exactly what you mean about the first draft and getting down the bones -- sometimes the first words aren't the best, and when we bop it out quickly, to get it all down, we are really just beginning. This is a wonderful post Bobbi -- I'll read it again! And the photos and graphics you used to illustrate it are beautiful and spot-on!

Crafty Green Poet said...

You use detail brilliantly all through this. I'm lucky in that my partner usually does the dishes. We have a fairly laid back approach to housework though and I think your motto is great!

Becca said...

What a great couplet of posts! I really enjoyed the way you described autumn, with its sights, sounds, tastes...and then took us into a humorous look at washing the dishes!

Well done!

gautami tripathy said...

I liked the description of smell in your post.

anthonynorth said...

The detail here is exceptional.