Writing Tips | The Story Elves - Help with writing, editing, illustrating and designing your own stories

- Tip -

How big is a detail?


I had a grandmother who lived a great, long time and, while she was alive, she kept many things the same.  She did the same work every day, lived in the same hillside dwelling, shopped at the same shops and had the same friends knocking at her big front door.  I loved her and also her sameness, and I determined to write a story about both.

Much of the thinking I had to do for the story was in the form of remembering.  In my mind, I reconstructed where she lived, her neat and tidy garden, her little elf office in a back room.  I recreated the short old elf herself.

I remembered the long green sofa in her cozy sitting room, on which I so often stretched out.  I remembered the wooden hearts on the backs of her chairs, the colors of her walls and curtains and quilts, the sound of her good friend Zorka’s laugh.  The number of things I could remember was considerable.

Then something quite interesting happened.

In between the sofas and chairs, friends laughing and other large memories, I began filling in much smaller details.

For starters, I remembered a gold bell that she pinned to her tunic.  I remembered the sound of the lock turning on her front door.  I remembered a ring that she wore and that, because of the weight of its glittering gemstone, it rolled to one side on her finger.  I remembered that she never took this ring off, even when she was planting flowers or stuffing a giant holiday turkey.

By the end of my work on the story, I had wrung out my memory so completely, I could remember the cool feel of fizz on my face as I raised a glass of icy cold honey pop to my mouth.  We did not have any honey pop at my dwelling.  This memory was from being at hers.

How big is one fizz atop a glass of honey pop?  It must be smaller than the head of a pin.

New idea: When you are writing a story from your memory, try searching your mind for details until you can recall things as small as a fizz.  Tiny details are wonderful in stories and they count for as much—and maybe even more—than sofa-sized details.

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The Story Elves - Help with writing, editing, illustrating and designing your own stories