It's all in the details?

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sierramcconnell
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It's all in the details?

Post by sierramcconnell » November 23rd, 2010, 3:40 pm

Okay, so, I'm one of those people that tend to go all out about details. I love to research things, random things, fun things, not so fun things, and even disgustingly gory things.

I feel the story and the characters are in the details.

But I find myself looking up cancer drugs and treatments for an 80+ year old Nephilim and I wonder, where does it stop?

Will the reader honestly care if I mention in passing just what exactly he's taking for the childhood cancer (Rhabdomyosarcoma) that infested the deformed wing muscles on his back with tumors? If I explain how he had to go through bouts of radiation therapy and has finally whittled the cancer that kept coming back down to a level where he can take a mild pill form of chemotherapy (drug name yet to be found!), will it really add any value to the book?

To me, those tiny paragraphs, detailing the many little bottles in Cael's kitchen, will add enough of a background to him to explain how he had to research and read on chemicals and compounds from the day he was a child, making him enough of a closet chemist to plausibly explain his ability to grow killer food.

But do I need the exact information? Or just the generalized details?
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Re: It's all in the details?

Post by Margo » November 23rd, 2010, 4:36 pm

Include the details necessary for the story, only when they are necessary for the story (usually at a moment when they will add something to the current situation). One of the dangers of research-heavy genres, especially historicals, sci-fi, and fantasy, is the tendency to include something because the author thinks it's cool and because the author went to the trouble of researching it. In this case, so long as you know what drug it was and what the side-effects are and don't write anything that specifically contradicts that, the reader probably won't care what the actual name is. If, however, you get a detail wrong, you will hear about it. That's an argument for moderation in detail, especially if you aren't an expert in a topic.
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Re: It's all in the details?

Post by polymath » November 23rd, 2010, 4:52 pm

A general rule of thumb principle for most genres is to avoid reciting expository detail. Recite equals tell while show is dramatically reporting an account of events.

Exposition at one time in literary terms merely meant the outset or setup of a main action, the introductions of a beginning act. Expositions commonly were backstory recited by a narrator, so exposition came to mean about the same thing as "info-dump." The recitation of details necessary to understand the action is a current meaning of exposition in some consensuses.

In my estimation, the simpler the details the better. It's also a best practice to leaven them in in scenes as they become important to the character(s) from their complication and purpose antagonism.

A cancer treatment might come out in a discussion between Cael and Nephilim in Cael's apothecary workshop. Perhaps Cael has perpared a new elixir or potion or tincture for Nephilim from a new discovery, like Turkey Tail mushroom, Trametes versicolor, which is showing some good results in preliminary usage as a chemotherapy drug. Compounds found in May Apple species are also showing good results as well as other plant and tree alkaloids.

Anyway, Cael offers Nephilim a new treatment regimen, explains the complications, and attempts to convince Nephilim to try it. He can balk, refuse, question and in so doing reveal details without becoming burdensome exposition. The challenge is to incorporate expository details into other writing modes that carry heavy freight, like action, introspection, conversation, sensation, and emotion, and maintain plot movement through causation, tension, and antagonism.
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Re: It's all in the details?

Post by Margo » November 23rd, 2010, 4:56 pm

polymath wrote:A general rule of thumb...
I couldn't have said it better myself. In fact, I didn't.
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Re: It's all in the details?

Post by sierramcconnell » November 23rd, 2010, 5:00 pm

polymath wrote:A cancer treatment might come out in a discussion between Cael and Nephilim in Cael's apothecary workshop. Perhaps Cael has perpared a new elixir or potion or tincture for Nephilim from a new discovery, like Turkey Tail mushroom, Trametes versicolor, which is showing some good results in preliminary usage as a chemotherapy drug. Compounds found in May Apple species are also showing good results as well as other plant and tree alkaloids.

Anyway, Cael offers Nephilim a new treatment regimen, explains the complications, and attempts to convince Nephilim to try it. He can balk, refuse, question and in so doing reveal details without becoming burdensome exposition. The challenge is to incorporate expository details into other writing modes that carry heavy freight, like action, introspection, conversation, sensation, and emotion, and maintain plot movement through causation, tension, and antagonism.
You have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, do you?

Cael is a Nephilim. Nephilim are half-angels. For the love of God, do people not read Bibles these days?
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Re: It's all in the details?

Post by polymath » November 23rd, 2010, 5:13 pm

sierramcconnell wrote:You have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, do you?

Cael is a Nephilim. Nephilim are half-angels. For the love of God, do people not read Bibles these days?
I have no idea what you meant to say. I only know what I gathered from what you wrote. I do read religious texts. One thing you might take into account is how writers use words is not in any way fixed on absolute meanings from any source. The language is alive and ever changing and growing. Nephilim I've seen in many usages mean different things. Capitalization is sometimes a clue for proper nouns and lower case for common nouns, and downstyle capitalization or formal principles vary. Nephilim occurs twice in the Hebrew bible, not at all in the King James bible where it is translated as giants. I'm not as versed about other bibles or the manifold religious schisms' usages of the term. One common connotative interpretation is Sons of God.
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Re: It's all in the details?

Post by Margo » November 23rd, 2010, 5:17 pm

sierramcconnell wrote:For the love of God, do people not read Bibles these days?
That's not really pertinent to the advice, though. As someone who does know what they are, I can tell you I think the advice is good.
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Re: It's all in the details?

Post by sierramcconnell » November 23rd, 2010, 5:22 pm

polymath wrote:
sierramcconnell wrote:You have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, do you?

Cael is a Nephilim. Nephilim are half-angels. For the love of God, do people not read Bibles these days?
I have no idea what you meant to say. I only know what I gathered from what you wrote. I do read religious texts. One thing you might take into account is how writers use words is not in any way fixed on absolute meanings from any source. The language is alive and ever changing and growing. Nephilim I've seen in many usages mean different things. Capitalization is sometimes a clue for proper nouns and lower case for common nouns, and downstyle capitalization or formal principles vary. Nephilim occurs twice in the Hebrew bible, not at all in the King James bible where it is translated as giants. I'm not as versed about other bibles or the manifold religious schisms' usages of the term. One common connotative interpretation is Sons of God.
But I find myself looking up cancer drugs and treatments for an 80+ year old Nephilim and I wonder, where does it stop?

Which means that he was not a character or person, since you are so well learned in literary stuffs. I used 'an', and didn't say "Nephilim, who is 80+ years old".

And the King James Version isn't so great. I happen to like the New International Version myself:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?se ... ersion=NIV

1 When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.


In which it is capitalized. :3
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Re: It's all in the details?

Post by sierramcconnell » November 23rd, 2010, 5:28 pm

Margo wrote:
sierramcconnell wrote:For the love of God, do people not read Bibles these days?
That's not really pertinent to the advice, though. As someone who does know what they are, I can tell you I think the advice is good.
And I can tell you, I'm not an expositionary writer. I do write in my character's heads a lot, and people find that charming because it gets them closer to the characters, but I have not been accused of being expostionary except by two people. One who has not read my work (so how would they know) and the other who did not give at all any helpful advice (the beta looked like a cookie cutter).

I can see where the advice is coming from, but I even said kitchen, not apothecary workshop.
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Re: It's all in the details?

Post by polymath » November 23rd, 2010, 5:32 pm

Research doesn't have a certain ending in sight. Where the research meets the story is where the bulk of it ends and the story begins. Chemotherapy is something I know all too well. Mom's been dying from cancer for a decade. Ancestors and uncles and aunts have gone on before her. Thanksgiving thanks at the dinner table Thursday will be thanks for another year with Mom and wishes for as many more as Providence grants.
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Re: It's all in the details?

Post by sierramcconnell » November 23rd, 2010, 5:43 pm

polymath wrote:Research doesn't have a certain ending in sight. Where the research meets the story is where the bulk of it ends and the story begins. Chemotherapy is something I know all too well. Mom's been dying from cancer for a decade. Ancestors and uncles and aunts have gone on before her. Thanksgiving thanks at the dinner table Thursday will be thanks for another year with Mom and wishes for as many more as Providence grants.
I really don't know what to say here so I'll refrain from saying anything.
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Re: It's all in the details?

Post by Quill » November 24th, 2010, 9:39 am

I believe detail is really important in writing, but it's imperative that one be selective with it. If you have a good editorial sense, then I'd say put in what you like or feel you should, and be prepared to take some of it out later. That's what I tend to do. I catch the excesses on my read-throughs. Too much detail makes the prose fat. You always want lean prose. Lean, but rich. Like protein. Think meat.

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Re: It's all in the details?

Post by Margo » November 24th, 2010, 4:52 pm

Quill wrote:You always want lean prose. Lean, but rich. Like protein. Think meat.
That's a nice way to conceptualize it. Not to be intentionally punny, but I think that's good imagery for people to sink their teeth into.
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Re: It's all in the details?

Post by Steppe » November 27th, 2010, 2:50 am

To try to ease your concern about to much detail you might try using it as the resting place after conflict.
Consciously use it as a pacing device. It could be used like a valley-trough for slowing down before the next plot rush, halfway through the exposition let the character experience the thrill of a potential discovery after slogging and troubling himself/herself for a page or two signaling a complete rest period that leads to a foreshadowing pace wise of the next interaction scenes that begin moving towards the next action and next slowing of the pace. It could become a great pacing tool. Think Sherlock Holmes muddling about complaining and grousing before shooting up some coke and summoning Watson for a daily chewing out before Watson chastises him into action.

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