Sunday, May 22, 2016

Noticing the Little Things

A first draft is all about the big picture. Who are these people? What happens to them? Why should I care? If done right, it paints a sweeping picture of the story.  

Draft two adds more layers to the story and makes it come alive. And to do that, we need details.

Last October, I decided to cheer myself up by dedicating a week to noticing the beauty around me by photographing one beautiful thing every day. An interesting finding from this project was that it isn't usually the huge, expansive views that make me smile. It's the little things.

A plant growing bravely out of a depression in a rock.                                                                                                                                                                           

The sudden flicker of a lizard running across the trail .

Evidence that people have been in this land, living and loving, long before most of the people I've read about in history books were born. And like me, they felt the need to leave their mark.  And eons before that, sea creatures who lived and died and left their fossilized remains.                                                                                                

I love this one orange flower defiantly blooming in the middle of a drift of white flowers. This is the sort of detail that makes a story come alive.

 We want our readers to be able to experience the story along with the characters. To blink at a sudden flash of sunlight streaming through a crack in the rock above.

To hear the rippling water in a cold mountain creek.

To feel the smooth texture of aspen bark.

To fill their lungs with the clean scent of desert wildflowers.

 But before readers experience these things, the writer has to experience them. Not necessarily exactly what the character is feeling. We can't travel to the moon and experience the desolation and silence, but we can be alone in the desert. If our character gets drenched in a thunderstorm, we need to remember what it feels like to be wet, and cold, and scared. We need to remember the smell of the rain, the rumble of thunder. And before we can remember, we have to notice. 
So every once in a while, writers need to close our laptops and take a walk, hang out with friends, and eat good food. And when we do these things, we need to notice the details - the sounds of the birds in the forest, the way a friend clicks her tongue when she's deciding whether to order cheesecake or pie, and the creamy texture of the cheesecake when she shares it. 

Consider it research.  


  1. Love this! And the pictures are gorgeous! Hope you are doing well, Beth!

    1. Thanks, Liz. I'm doing well, hope you are too. I'm glad you stopped by.

  2. Lovely pictures! And a lovely reminder to notice the details. It's so easy to get swept away in the speed of life and forget to take time to enjoy the little things; which, I agree with you, they're the things that make us smile most.

    1. Having seen pictures of your artwork and needlework, I can tell you're a noticing kind of person. Your doodles make me smile.