How to find details for a story when you’re not good at them
I admit it. I’m terrible with details.
I can look at a place, see all the details, come back, and not remember a single one of them. They all merge with the big picture. So all the things I see at the beach turns into beach, sand, and water, and I forget about a bunch of stuff I did see.
So I’ve learned these three work arounds:
1. Ask questions about the place
No matter the location, I ask questions about specifics. If we’re in the woods, then the questions might be:
- What kind of trees are here?
- What kind of birds live in these woods?
- What sounds do they make?
Which leads to the second workaround:
2. Take notes live at the site
- Flies buzzing past.
- Warmth of sun
- Long ago fallen tree being gnawed away
Mason Neck Park was a substitution. I couldn’t go to the actual location of the setting, which is in Hawaii, so I had to make do. Woods are pretty universal in how to they operate. I’m planning on going to Virginia Beach for the beach experience (yes, pictures!).
After I get back, I pretty them up in notes. I plan to do these trips at different times of the year, since Spring is different than Winter.
The library is my friend for looking up specific names of plants. I usually just make a note in the manuscript with something like:
(Name of tree) towered overhead.
Then I can hit the library once I have enough details to research, preferably ones in the same detail family.
I’ve mentioned some of the things I do in passing and have had people pop up in surprise and say, “That’s what I do!” So we’re not alone. If you have trouble with details, what do you do?