Writing is one of the best ways of expressing ourselves. The plot and the character development in fiction can blossom into great literature. The concepts of science, philosophy or history can expand a reader’s knowledge.
But the best story line or concepts presented can pale when the reader cannot picture the scene. Dialogue drives the scene. But being able to see what is happening, through the words of the author gives the reader a better attachment to the story.
For example, in the Rex Stout novels of the 30s and 40s, we knew exactly where Archie and Nero Wolfe were, how the furniture was arranged and what Nero’s schedule was. They lived in mid-town Manhattan. The office had two desks, with phones on each, two red leather chairs facing the larger desk, with a small table between them. These were reserved for the most important visitors of the moment. Other chairs could be brought in. Nero worked on the third floor twice a day, morning and afternoon, with his orchids, and could not be disturbed. I haven’t read a Nero Wolfe detective mystery in 30 years. But the description sticks.
In Carmen Amato’s Emilia Cruz mystery series, the detective room has a desk and cheap computer for each detective, a coffee pot and a large marker board for notes. The lieutenant’s office opens right into the office. He is aware of what is going on. The place smells of coffee and tobacco. We know the notebooks in Emilia’s desk and who sits across from her. Details let us walk through the story with Emilia.
Writing is all about getting the whole story out. Not only do we want our readers to be able to picture a place, but we need to have our readers picture the characters. Most people, and, by extension, most characters, have some little quirks that the writers should capture and present occasionally. In Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Claire mentions Jamie’s odd traits frequently. His red hair is coppery, reflects the candlelight with a golden glow. Or he gets seasick easily. So she puts him into scenes where he has the opportunity to turn green, vomit, concentrate on his breathing with his head between his legs or whatever else Gabaldon choses. What about Claire? She has curly dark hair which is constantly coming loose from her hairpins and she does not like to wear a cap over her hair. But these things are not mentioned once in the hope that the reader remembers. It is repeated throughout each book.
One thing I have noticed is trying to picture outdoors in stories. I love stories where the scenes change, indoors to outdoors, one building to another. And I enjoy picturing where the character is. It could be a park, or it could be a park-like setting with ancient oaks creating a canopy over the stone walkways. The second can be recognized so much more easily.
In my work in progress, the year is 1635, the place is the East coast of Virginia. Except for little houses dotted around the countryside, most of the action is out of doors. Spring brings pink and white flowering dogwoods. Multiple trees supply colorful berries for animals throughout the summer. Flowers of every color bloom throughout the long summer. Placing my characters in the forests of Virginia can give my readers a more enjoyable read.
Put detail in your stories. Let your readers enjoy even more.