Source: Tumisu on Pixabay, edited with GIMP
Hello again, friends of The Ink Well.
Through some bizarre fluke, this tips post was initially published twice. To reduce confusion, I'm switching up this version to provide some great examples of engaging writing.
If you haven't done so, be sure to read what I will refer to as "Writing Tips #31, Part 1", "Don't Write This Type of Mystery."
The topic at hand is this: readers need to be able to immerse in a story, and for that they need details. They need to know the cast of characters, and what challenges they need to overcome. Only then will they take an interest in your story.
If you leave them in the dark, or omit important details, or wait too long to give the reader some strong clues about where the story is going, not only are you doing a disservice to your readers and making them work too hard, but you will lose them.
Richly Told Passages
In this follow-up post, I'm providing some passages that illustrate various writing styles, but that have one thing in common: they provide sensory details. Note how quickly you get a sense of the people, the sights and the sounds.
Passage one: The Time Keeper, by Mitch Albom
Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out. Source
Passage two: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Source
Passage three: The Tin Drum, by Günter Grass
But now it was Monday afternoon and my grandmother was sitting by the potato fire. Today her Sunday skirt was one layer closer to her person, while the one that had basked in the warmth of her skin on Sunday swathed her hips in Monday gloom. Whistling with no particular tune in mind, she coaxed the first cooked potato out of the ashes with her hazel branch and pushed it away from the smoldering mound to cool in the breeze. Then she spitted the charred and crusty tuber on a pointed stick and held it close to her mouth; she had stopped whistling and instead pursed her cracked, wind-parched lips to blow the earth and ashes off the potato skin.Source
Passage Four: Sula, by Tony Morrison
Then summer came. A summer limp with the weight of blossomed things. Heavy sunflowers weeping over fences; iris curling and browning at the edges far away from their purple hearts; ears of corn letting their auburn hair wind down to their stalks. And the boys. The beautiful, beautiful boys who dotted the landscape like jewels, split the air with their shouts in the field, and thickened the river with their shining wet backs. Even their footsteps left a smell of smoke behind. It was in that summer, the summer of their twelfth year, the summer of the beautiful black boys, that they became skittish, frightened and bold — all at the same time.Source
Passage Five: Elmet, by Fiona Mozley
If the hare was made of myths then so too was the land at which she scratched. Now pocked with clutches of trees, once the whole county had been woodland and the ghosts of the ancient forest could be marked when the wind blew. The soil was alive with ruptured stories that cascaded and rotted then found form once more and pushed up through the undergrowth and back into our lives. Source
I hope this inspires you! To tie this back to the line of thought in Part 1, great writing is about artfully sharing information and details that draw the reader in. If we write in a vague or opaque way that prevents our readers from seeing the story with their minds' eye, we do a disservice to them and to ourselves.
@jayna, writer and moderator at The Ink Well.
If you're looking to up your fiction game and reach that next level, check out my past writing tips linked below.
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