Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It's the Little Things that Count

copyright Zan Marie Steadham 1977
Have you ever noticed that the little details in a scene really are the ones that make the scene come alive? They aren't mentioned for more than a sentence or two, but you see into the character and into the setting because of them.

An example of one such small detail is a wedding ring. I haven't been able to wear my wedding ring for over ten years due to over-active nerves that is a side effect of my Fibromyalgia. Since I started taking a new medicine for it, I'm less achy and find that I can wear my wedding ring for at least a few hours instead of a few minutes.

Once I discovered this happy side effect, I realized that the scene I'm working on was missing something--Laura Grace's wedding ring. In the scene, Laura Grace has just suffered a mild heart attack and after an ambulance ride to the ER and being admitted to the cardiac intensive care unit, she realizes that she isn't wearing the wedding rings she's worn for over forty years. Including that little detail makes the scene more real and reveals that she was a devoted wife and as a widow hasn't forgotten her husband.

I rubbed my face trying to dig up some semblance of alertness. Jerking my hand away, I stared at it. "Where are my wedding rings?"

Another such detail is the fact that Laura Grace is nearsighted and can't read the clock she can see as a blur on the hospital room wall. She can hear the tiny clicks of the second hand, but can't tell the time. That makes her distinctly uncomfortable while revealing her need for glasses. Here's a sample.

How long had I been here? I knew I was in a cardiac care ICU room, but without my glasses, I couldn’t read the blur of a clock that floated on the wall in front of me. I could hear the seconds hand’s movement, tiny click by tiny click.

How do you include the tiniest of telling details that open the window into your characters?
What detail have you included that comes from you life experience?