Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Last night's meeting showed me once again that although I'm smart enough to understand that I tend toward obscure prose, I'm not quite smart enough to identify obscure prose during revisions. Thus, this morning's stroll kept bringing me back to the topic of specificity. I'm sorry this gadget doesn't support uploading pics, but the ones this morning weren't necessarily good; rather they were about the fine details in the weeds bordering the woodland trail.

There are gorgeous, showy delphiniums and poppies in the curated beds in pastel and deep purple shades. Along the woodland trail, though, there are the tiny salmon flowers that I used to love in elementary school. These are plants that reward being low to the ground and grows in the shadow of trees and in the semi-mowed grass of playgrounds. It's a detail that might have been lost in the clover and dandelions but wasn't because it was previously familiar to me.

Similarly, details build a story by letting the reader borrow familiarity with situations and emotions they might not otherwise have.

I tend to mistake pretty details for important ones.While the delphinium beds are pretty, the salmon weeds trigger a personal reverie. I remember a spring afternoon on the playground listening to Tammy list all the items she'll bring to gym locker when we go to the junior high next year and have a formal gym class. She ticks off deodorant, hairbrush, etc. She's leaning against a tree, the rest of in a circle around her. For a few minutes, she's an expert on transitioning from kid to teen. Tammy's ordinary playground aggressiveness is now a social strength as we think about reverting to the bottom of the totem pole. It's also the last year that I see her, since I believe she moved that summer. By the next year, my focus was on the post-lunch cliques rather than the weeds that survived their feet. Thinking about growing up in Lake Jackson also reminds me of that initial drive to write.

Back to the draft, therefore, and the missing details and the unnecessary filigree.

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