The Devil’s In The Details
Hi All! So this week I want to discuss something very important – it’s been on my mind for quite some time and I think we (I) will all feel better when I get it out on the table. Several months ago, probably at the end of last year, I got my hands on an advanced copy of a book that I think we would all say was highly anticipated. Okay, maybe not highly, but still people were looking forward to it – myself included. And so, as is often the case, as soon as it landed in my hands, I put aside work reading and devoured it. I won’t name names – and I don’t want to talk trash here – because overall, I liked this book. It was sweet and satisfying, and even though the premise was a stretch, it was good fun and all’s well that ends well and all that. BUT there was something in this book that irked me – and still does.
It’s hard to explain without specifics (and giving away which book I’m talking about), but I’m going to go with an analogy – so roll with me. This book was set in a place – small, American town (I assume it was a make-believe name) with a specific region, for the sake of this article, we are going to make up our own small town – Herbertsville Minnesota. And our protagonist, we’ll call her Erin, has spent her entire life in Herbertsville and spends her free time working at the local Indian restaurant saving all her money. Because even though Herbertsville is darling and charming (much like Stars Hallow if you will), like most teenage girls, Erin dreams of one day making it out of Herbertsville but she has to tackle many obstacles in the coming year (or chapters). Luckily for Erin, handsome fellow Devin happens to be in town (let’s say he’s an attractive, hot air balloon pilot who is taking a trip across country, but really he’s hiding from the issues with his parents, and he lands in a field in Herbertsville just itching for Chicken Tikka Masala) and they promptly have an adorable meet-cute and Erin’s summer is looking much better.
What’s the problem, you’re wondering? This all sounds fantastic (and really, for the most part it is) except for the fact that Erin and Devin have an on-going inside joke about one of the quirky but defining regional details of Herbertsville. (Again for the sake of this analogy we’re going to say) Erin and Devin are arguing about the use of the word “pop” instead of “soda” only, here’s where my issue with the real book came up – “Devin” brought up the word “pop” and “Erin” didn’t know what he was talking about. Here’s the deal, I’m from Minnesota – and have lived on the East Coast for many years, but I am barely just dropping “pop” from my vocabulary. Everyone I grew up with uses “pop” – and I totally understand it’s a regional thing, and believe me, there are many many times where people have (gently) laughed at my use of the word (or thought I was asking for “pot” – which I wasn’t). But back to the point – the idea that our make-believe protagonist would have grown up in small town Minnesota and not know what “pop” is is the most preposterous concept to me (and yes, it’s more preposterous than a hot, hot air balloon pilot showing up). People from states that border an ocean might be thinking I’m crazy at this point, but trust me, I’m not (at least not in regards to this detail). It’s like someone from California not knowing what In and Out Burger is, or someone from Philly not knowing what a real cheesesteak is – it’s just not real.
So the book that I read last fall was great like I said, it was cute, and adorable and overall a very satisfying love story/coming of age book. Except for the one little detail that still niggles at the back of my brain. At this point you might be wondering what my point is? Well, I guess my point is that the devil is in the details. You (the author) are creating a world that we (readers) are blessed enough to dive into – and we’re thrilled, ecstatic really, to have that opportunity. But much like people who are watching a Michael Bay movie, we will notice when things don’t add up – and be left scratching our heads wondering “what just happened here??” And sometimes it’s okay (obviously that doesn’t seem to bother Michael Bay) but as a reader, it can be like driving along and getting a flat tire, or having a massive bug squash on your windshield that obscures your view, or like when you’re driving and you hit that stretch of unfinished pavement where it feels like you’re driving a car with square wheels for a couple miles – it’s distracting and not enjoyable.
That was an extremely long-winded way to get to my point though, which is when you’re writing make sure the pieces add up. Make sure there aren’t little details that are left niggling in the back of your readers brain. Please. Imagine doing a puzzle that doesn’t actually all fit together, imagine going to a movie and not getting why there is a car chase scene for no apparent reason. It doesn’t necessarily ruin the experience, but it does make it somewhat less satisfying. And no one wants unsatisfied readers!
That’s what I’ve got for you Swooners this week. What’s on your mind? Is there a detail you’ve had with a story that you can’t shake? Sound off below!