Everything Actual is an Advantage

by | Sep 24, 2020 | Blog

Everything Actual is an Advantage

Sensory detail grounds writing. In memoir, detail forms the shape of a lived experience. In a novel, the choice of which details to leave in and which to leave out shape the story as much or sometimes more than the plot.

One story set in New Orleans might feature an ornate Garden District house with a painted porch. Flamingo pink roses spill from baskets. Plum morning glory climbs a lattice frame. Mid-morning, an elderly woman patiently trims blossoms, gathering them into a bouquet.

A different story might portray the dark night of the French Quarter. At 2am, on a Sunday, an elderly woman in a shiny purple lycra bodysuit slithers out of a hotel room into the street. She passes a man in tattered clothes who can barely stand long enough to piss against the stone hotel foundation.

Same city. Two very different stories.

Better yet, combine them in the same story.

Show the contrast, the underbelly. And don’t assume the underbelly is the French Quarter. Choose the details of what goes on behind the doors of one of the fancy painted houses.

Show it all.

As novelist Toni Morrison said, “Everything actual is an advantage.” Put the light against the dark to see the full perspective.

For more writing wisdom, please check out You Should Be Writing, the writing journal from Mango Publishing by Brenda Knight and Nita Sweeney.

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