Aneesha Baptist, sophomore at South Brunswick High School, Southport, N.C. Winner of poster contest in the Brunswick County Intercultural Festival, N.C.

Aneesha Baptist, sophomore at South Brunswick High School, Southport, N.C. Winner of poster contest in the Brunswick County Intercultural Festival, N.C.

        Kill or cure with details

Some stories just won’t start. They kill reader’s interest in the first sentence with too many details. Setting goes into character description before dialogue begins. It may be:

The golden orb of the sun is rising over the crescent hills, and Mary, clutching a trendy black briefcase-type handbag decorated with rhinestones to match her rhinestone-encrusted flip flops that go perfectly with her black and white checked tunic covering her black skinny jeans to the hips and floppy black hat hiding her flowing blond shoulder-length hair…” You get the idea. Details are important, but only the RIGHT details make the story come alive.

Try:

A blazing sun burst over the hills as Mary, dressed in black and white for her dream job interview clutched her trendy handbag. A rhinestone on her right flip flop caught on the curb when she stepped onto Michigan Avenue, and her floppy hat soared to the heavens as she met the pavement.

At the National Federation of Press Women annual conference in Greenville, S.C. a few weeks ago, Justin Murphy and David Chapman of Your Creative People pointed out the importance of using the right words. They showed a man sitting on the steps of a building, a can next to him with a sign reading, “I’m blind.” Few people dropped coins in the can.

A woman picked up the sign and changed the words to read something similar to: “It’s a sunny day today, but I can’t see it. I’m blind.” More people began donating.

You decide which details to include.

 

Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I’ve been a professional freelance writer for several years and specialize in writing feature stories. I have more than a 1,000 bylines to my credit and have written on countless topics from autism to zoology. My columns on fashion and the Internet appeared in a Chicago area newspaper in the 90s. “Brunswick Buzz,” the column in The Sun News, the Myrtle Beach, S.C. daily, ran for seven years then “Events on the North Strand” took over in October 2013, also in The Sun News.

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