In our daily lives, we have to make room for the minutiae of life. We eat, drink, take showers, and run errands. Our lives would fall apart without taking care of the basic necessities of living.
Our characters don’t often have the luxury of taking care of life’s minutiae when they are busy pursuing their goals. In the television series “24”, the hero Jack Bower must save the day, without taking any time for himself. He sets aside his personal needs when he pursues the enemy and protects the President. He doesn’t even have time to sleep!
Your characters may be in the middle of a similarly high-paced action story, or they may have a little more leeway. It is up to you to decide how much realism needs to be incorporated into your novel. Too much, and your readers could become bored. Too little, and your characters appear superhuman, unaffected by the basic requirements of living a healthy life.
Adding More Details to Your Story
When your writing is flowing freely, it is too easy to forget that your characters need a break. They may jump from one scene to another, overcoming foes and discovering new obstacles at every turn. While this makes for an exciting story, your characters can’t go on forever without some down time.
Sleep is one of the most important things that characters seem to forget to do. Allow them to set up camp for the night, or they may collapse from exhaustion in the middle of an important scene. Chapter breaks are great places to let your characters sleep on the past events, and prepare them to face a new day in pursuit of their goals.
Eating and drinking are also necessary if you want your characters to keep forging ahead. They may only have time to grab an apple and a swig of water, but that small detail will remind readers that your characters are realistic and susceptible to human concerns. Larger meals can be included to provide a respite from a speedy plot line, and to give your characters time to ruminate over their game plan.
Removing Minutiae From Your Story
Your story can become bogged down by too much detail. If every chapter ends with your heroine curling up in her cozy bed, her plight can sound trivial and mundane. Readers like stories that provide an escape from their everyday lives. Too many mundane activities can add up to a boring story.
If your characters have to get from point A to point B, they can do so either very quickly or very slowly in terms of your story. Noting that they arrived at their destination after three days of uneventful travel is perfectly fine. You don’t have to show every stop, every meal, and every conversation that doesn’t add to your story. Only include minutiae if it enhances your characterization or your plot line. When in doubt, throw it out.
It is very easy to add a mundane scene, just to act as filler while you’re thinking of what happens next in the story. If you need to keep the writing flowing, go ahead and write that scene at a roadside diner. It may provide important details to lead your characters in the right direction. If it doesn’t, you can always remove it later, and your story will keep up the pace.
Do you tend to write lean stories, without many human details? Or do you enjoy writing long descriptive passages about every meal? How do you strike a balance of real world concerns and exciting plot points?
Photo Credit: 07-07-08 © manley099