Have you ever finished writing a story and realized that your antagonist’s limpid brown eyes have inexplicably morphed into sparkling sapphire orbs halfway through, or learned that somewhere along the line, you have replaced that delightful but doddery old Mrs. Johnson with her equally sweet and unsteady doppelganger, Mrs. Jonston?
If your details are inconsistent, your story will lose credibility and your readers will start to lose interest. Additionally, it will take longer for your editor to help you find and clean up those details, so if you are paying for editorial services out of your own pocket, this may increase the costs to you.
However, it doesn’t take a special brand of fool to make this kind of mistake. Often, there are so many little strands of plot and character development to weave together that it’s easy to lose sight of a few. And although it’s tempting to just dive in and start writing when the urge strikes, you would be well advised to devise some way to keep track of the nitty gritty bits that will make your story lively and fascinating.
Create a record of the various characters, places, and events you plan to introduce in your story. You can use that little notebook that you carry around with you, create a list in a Word document or spreadsheet, or even compose a poem or song as a mnemonic device if that works for you, but it’s important that you have some way to keep track of minutiae. You can add as many or as few details as you see fit, but adding more details will help you create a more vibrant story and help you kick-start your story planning. If you revise any details of your story, just remember to revise your list of details as well.
In short, by being diligent about tracking details, you will lose (a little) less sleep, and you may even save some time when it comes to writing the “mushy middle.”
Bedevilled by Details — Part II: Beware of Overshare