Mark Pendergrast, Local Nonfiction Author of Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service.
This week's Write The Book Prompt has to do with detail. Gustave Flaubert was so concerned with getting every detail right that he often spent days struggling to arrive at exactly the right word. In her book, Mystery and Manners, Flannery O'Connor wrote, "Fiction operates through the senses, and I think one reason that people find it so difficult to write stories is that they forget how much time and patience is required to convince through the senses. No reader who doesn't actually experience, who isn't made to feel, the story is going to believe anything the fiction writer merely tells him. The first and most obvious characteristic of fiction is that it deals with reality through what can be seen, heard, smelt, tasted, and touched." This week, stop struggling to come up with details in your work, and just look around. Go to any corner of your house or garage or barn or place of work, and take in the details that are there. Touch that square of decorative carpet, and put into words what it feels like. Smell that candle, and write down what-if any-scent it has, and what you associate with that smell. Remember when you got that camera for your birthday, and how you were disappointed, because you'd wanted another brand? Look at that photograph of your cousin. What is he wearing? Why does he dress that way? Is his collar poking out from his jacket on one side? Is his shirt wrinkled and un-tucked? Or is he meticulous, beyond physical criticism? And if so, what does that say about him? How does that characterization fit with your experiences of being around him? This week's prompt is about re-educating yourself in the art of noticing details, so that you might more easily access them as you work.
A COPY OF THIS PROMPT WILL BE INCLUDED in the description to this week's Podcast. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Excerpt from Mark Pendergrast's Inside The Outbreaks read with permission.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several South Burlington High School students)