Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Importance of Detail

One of my favorite shows in the last decade was PRISON BREAK. If you never heard of it, here's the blurb from imdb.com:

Due to a political conspiracy an innocent man is sent to death row and his only hope is his brother who makes it his mission to deliberately get himself sent to the same prison in order to break the both of them out from the inside out.

Each episode ended in such a way that you had to tune in for the next episode. All characters were fleshed out, including the most deplorable character introduced. And the planning behind the prison break? It totally proves how important detail is.

WARNING: THE NEXT PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SLIGHT SPOILERS

In Season 1, everything rides upon the plan Michael put in place prior to his incarceration. Michael laid out the entire escape plan on his body, all the way down to how he and his brother will make it out of the country. At one point, part of Michael’s tattoo gets damaged. This jeopardizes the escape.

This example illustrates detail and what happens when the detail goes away. Without detail, everything around us falls flat. The same goes for detail when we write. We need to keep detail in mind wherever we are in our writing process. Detail is what makes a setting vivid and a character more three-dimensional.

If I was to write a story about a chimp about Bubba, it might be awesome or mundane. As it stands, the Bubba-chimp story isn’t too exciting. We know nothing about what kind of story to expect. If Bubba the Chimp flies with mechanical wings, that is a totally different story. Just by adding that small detail, we get a better snapshot of the type of story and character we can expect.

If you haven’t seen Prison Break, it can be streamed through Amazon Instant Video and Netflix.

What shows have you seen that illustrate a fantastic use of detail?

8 comments:

  1. I have one thing to say: Michael and his tattoo (*swoon*) :-)

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    1. I'm in total agreement. While rewatching it this month, I'm finding myself paying even more attention to Michael. Needless to say, I'm getting no work done.

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  2. I must admit, I watch almost no TV at all. I do, however, love it when storytellers of any kind use their details. It's a great quality in all genres, imo--not just confined to thrillers and mystery.

    Also, check out our 100 follower giveaway! We have some writerly/readerly T-shirts and a classic book up for grabs. :)

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    1. You're totally right about detail being important in all genres. Sometimes it's hard to remember that, especially if you're not very detail-savvy.

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  3. I second the swoon over Michael! Loved that show.

    One of my faves for quirky details was Wonderfalls. Hard to explain in a way that makes sense if you've never seen it, but the main character hears "voices" through various objects, like stuffed animals. When they started "talking," she'd grab them and take them with her. I always cracked up when I'd see the item in the background during a later show.

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    1. I never heard of Wonderfalls. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the rec!

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  4. Hmm... I haven't seen Prison Break, but I'm kind of intruged now!

    I find myself constantly awed by the attention to detail in The Vampire Diaries (all those people so inter-connected!) and Dexter (he is the most fleshed out of any character, ever). I often find myself "studying" while I watch both of those shows instead of relaxing and enjoying them. I recommend both if you haven't seen them. :)

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    1. Yes to The Vampire Diaries. I like to imagine that the writers have flow charts and webs to show how everything works together on that series.

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