Mark Terry

Thursday, October 14, 2010


October 14, 2010
Back on August 18th I wrote about what might be on your main character's refrigerator.

Last night I ran down to the basement to get some ice cream from the freezer. We bought this chest freezer for about $50 a dozen years ago that works fairly well, except that the lid doesn't seal really well. To remedy that situation, we went with a redneck solution--we put two paint cans and a plastic container full of fish tank gravel on it to weigh it down. Yeah, I know.

But the point is, as I was doing this, I thought: This would be an interesting little detail in a novel, wouldn't it?

Not: He went to get ice cream from the freezer.

But: The freezer seal was warped and to keep the lid shut, he kept two paint cans and a plastic container of fish tank gravel on top. It was a nuisance. Every time he wanted to get something out of the freezer they all had to come off, then go back on again. Maybe he should do something about that. But he didn't, he put them back on and went upstairs with the ice cream.

An odd detail, but an interesting one if it were in fiction.

It made me think about Stephen King's "Bag of Bones" where once Michael Noonan goes to his Maine vacation home, we're treated to a stuffed moose head on the wall that he and his late-wife named Bunter. His wife had put a bell on a velvet ribbon around the moose's neck. It was a private joke between the two of them. Whenever they made love on the sofa beneath Bunter, they referred to it as "ringing Bunter's bell." What a little piece of rich detail in a novel filled with them.

What do you think? Is the devil in the details?


Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Absolutely. It's those little things that writers notice--and stick in a book--that make them memorable. And it's those things that, because I am a writer, I notice about people.

And the freezer example is great.

4:00 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Heh, I thought of coming in here to say "Absolutely" only to discover that Erica had already said it.

7:50 AM  

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