Wednesday, February 7, 2018

God is in the Details - And We Should be, too

Hello, Seekerville! Mindy Obenhaus here, one of the new Seekers on the block, and I can't tell you how stoked I am about this new adventure. And...maybe just a tad nervous. So let me start by telling you a little bit about myself.
I grew up in Michigan, but got to Texas as quick as I could. I married a Texan, birthed 5 Texans and live on a ranch in south central Texas. So while I may not be a native Texan, I still bleed Lone Star red, white and blue.

My writing journey began in 2004 and I received my first contract with Love Inspired Books in 2013. Since then, I've published a total of 6 books with Love Inspired and pray there will be many yet to come. 

I want to start this very first post of mine by asking you a question.

Have you ever thought of God as detail-oriented? 

Take a look at this sunset. The Masterful placement of the clouds, the exact splashes of color, the way the light filters through every layer... Pretty, for sure, yet there's nothing haphazard about it. Instead, every detail has been beautifully planned.
Or what about the mountains? I took this photo on our last trip to Ouray, Colorado. One of the things I love most about the mountains is that there's nothing manmade. From the craggy, timeworn formations to the brilliant green on trees to the glacial blue waters, it's all God and His magnificent attention to detail.  
Just in case you're still skeptical, let's look at Jesus' words in Matthew 10. "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." 

You can't get more detailed than that. Even a mother who cradles her newborn and studies them for hours on end would be hard-pressed to tell you how many hairs are on the babe's head.

So how does this translate to readers and writers?

When you pick up a book and start to read, what is it that draws you in? Is it the characters? The setting? 

No. It's the details of those elements. Those minute parts that add depth, bring a story to life and invite us into the relationship that lies within the book. 

It's that relationship we crave, because humans were created for relationships. Yet for any relationship to happen, we have to get to know each other. Or, in this case, get to know the characters. And, just like in real life, a trust has to be built. The author has to make us care about the characters so much that we can't wait to get to the end of the book to make sure everything turns out all right. 

What's a writer to do?

First and foremost, the author, the story creator, needs to know their characters intimately. Right down to the number of hairs on their head. Though that probably won't be revealed in the story. 

Not only do you need to know what they look like physically, but what they look like on the inside. How do they view life? Are they perpetually happy? Have they been wounded by someone they once loved? Do they feel like God has let them down? What drives them? Why? And countless other questions, because if the author doesn't take the time to get to know their characters, the reader won't want to take the time either.

I know my characters, now what?

Start building that relationship right away with an opening line or paragraph that grabs the reader's attention and makes them want to keep reading. Something that immediately puts us into the story and that character's head.

It can be dialog, like in Jan Drexler's upcoming release, The Amish Nanny's Sweetheart.

"You're sure you want to do this?" 

As a reader, I'm asking, "Do what?" That one little line makes me want to keep reading.

Sometimes, it's a sentence or two that instantly tells us what the story is about, such as Ruth Logan Herne's Their Surprise Daddy.

One minute Cruz Maldonado was a sought-after Manhattan financial investor with a law degree, a force to be reckoned with on Wall Street.
The next he was the guardian for two children whose existence probably sprang from the jaws of Mexican cartels.

Reader Mindy thinks, "What does a bigwig dude like that know about raising kids?" Fish out of water stories can be so fun.

Here are some other elements every writer needs to employ when working toward building a relationship with their readers.
  • Show, don't tell - I can hear many of you new writers, and even some older ones, groaning over that phrase. We hear it so often in critiques and contest feedback, but only because it's true. Don't tell me the heroine is brokenhearted. I want to feel her pain as she watches the hero drive away. To see her standing in the cold, hands buried in her coat pockets as she dutifully forces one foot in front of the other, all the while battling back tears. She knew better than to get her hopes up, yet she's done it anyway. (Of course, this stands true for happier moments, also)
  • Don't be afraid to hurt them - In life, we all experience pain, whether physical or emotional. Don't be afraid to hurt your characters. As a matter of fact, you need to hurt them. Have your wounded warrior meet the families of the men who died beside him, no matter how much he dreads it. 
  • Don't overdo the details - When we drop too many details at one time, it becomes the dreaded info dump. Readers don't need to know everything all at once. Think of the details of the hero/heroine's past/dreams/reason for chasing the bad guy as seasoning. Sprinkle only as much as you need for that particular bite. We don't need to know every detail of the hero's last breakup the first time we hear about it. All we really need to know is that he'd gotten burned and learned what kind of person the deceased sister of the heroine had really been.
  • Be purposeful - Let's go back to the sunset photo. The golden orange against the blue sky. Other nights there might be some purple or pink or no clouds at all. But whatever God chooses, it's by design, with every detail precisely placed. And so it should be with our words/chapters/stories. Don't throw out something just for the sake of word count. There has to be a reason. And that reason is to allow readers to connect with your story, build that relationship and make them want to keep reading.

Details can make or break a story. Too many or not enough can leave a story lacking. But when we know our characters and are purposeful with the details, the relationship that blooms is worth the struggle.

Now it's your turn. Are you detail oriented? Have you ever thought of God that way? Readers, what draws you into a story? Writers, do you ever struggle with too many details? How do you break things down? And what advice do you have for other writers?




Three-time Carol Award nominee, Mindy Obenhaus, writes contemporary romance for Love Inspired Books. She’s passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren at her Texas ranch. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

101 comments:

  1. First, I am in total agreement. It's not the devil in the details... it's God. It's that gentle hand, that healing touch, the amazing curvature of a spine, a heart, an ear... the world of cell differentiation... Amazing. And I'm in love with that Ouray picture!!!!

    I feel the same way about stories... that those details transplant us as readers to another place, another time. And it can be good or bad... as the author intends. I'm reading "Neighbors" a non-fiction about a horrible genocide in Poland, where a large band of Christians and Catholics brutally murdered 1600 Jews...

    The heartbreaking details not only anger me, they shape my soul into something stronger than it was. Something kinder. Because if we don't learn from the mistakes of the past, we are doomed to repeat them.

    Now back to romance!!! Cruz Maldonado... oh, what a great hero he was to create. So strong. So smart. So full of himself and his Wall Street existence.

    A man who ran out of time once... and almost runs out of time again.

    I loved creating his story!

    Okay, I've talked too much, I've hijacked Mindy's blog!!!

    MY BAD!!!!

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    1. Good morning, Ruthy. Transplanted is an interesting way of looking at reading. I've always thought of it as an escape, which it often is, but then, you're right, it can transplant us to another place or time. We can start out in our bedroom or living room and suddenly find ourselves anywhere else in the world. I've always loved that God uses story in His word to communicate with us. To teach us simple-minded folk in ways we can actually understand. Because His ways are way higher than I can usually grasp.

      Thanks for using the gift God gave you to make us smile, Ruthy.

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    2. Ruthy, we are all still learning from the Holocaust. As we should be.
      KB

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  2. AND MINDY!!!! WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE!!!!! That seems so funny to say because you've been part of Yankee Belle Cafe for years, but I'll say it again... WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE!!!!!!

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  3. Good morning, everyone! I brought an assortment of teas to go alongside the coffee, along with some fresh blueberry muffins and sausage rolls for those who want a little protein.

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  4. Good morning, Mindy, and welcome to this side of Seekerville! :)

    God is definitely in the details! And details in a story can make it come alive--add flavor and "relatable" images that draw readers in and anchor them, keep them turning the page. Thank you for sharing ways that we as writers can strengthen that element in our writing!

    P.S. Please tell us a little about your ranch!

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    1. Morning, Glynna. I love that word "relatable." It doesn't matter who the person is, rich/poor, old/young, there are almost always feelings or experiences we can relate to.

      Ah, the ranch. We have 500 acres that is part of a larger parcel that has been passed down through the generations. But I can't help telling the history, because I love how the story goes. My husband's great-great grandmother was given the land by her father. She married and had two daughters, but died in a yellow fever epidemic in the 1800s. Her daughters went to live with her brother and, a few years later, one daughter died, leaving hubby's great grandmother without her parents or sister. Her uncle, however, still held onto the land--her inheritance--for her, which is kind of amazing for that day and time. Great grandmother had three children and the land was split between them, then later their children, one of which was my late father-in-law who was an only child. One of the things I love most about that story is how the land was passed down through the women until the mid-20th century.
      Nowadays, we share the land with a couple hundred head of beef cattle, along with numerous wild hogs, the occasional coyote or bobcat, and who knows what else.

      Sorry, that was way more than a little, Glynna, but I just love that old story.

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    2. Love that ranch story, Mindy!

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    3. Love the story about the ranch's history, Mindy! How special! My dad's side of the family goes way back in rural Texas history, too. But unfortunately, none of them bought a ranch (or an oil well!), although a cousin has for a long time raised prize-winning Santa Gertrudis cattle. I used to love my visits to Texas...sitting on the porch at night under the stars or under a mimosa in the afternoon, the sound of cattle lowing, a rooster crowing at dawn, and the wild, fresh scent of the air that was like no other! :)

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    4. It really is a cool story. I love the heritage.

      Glynna, while we don't have any mimosa trees here at the ranch, my husband always talks about the one that had at the house he grew up in. It must hold fond memories for him, too. As for that wild, fresh scent in the air, are sure that wasn't the cows? ;)

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    5. Ha ha, Mindy! :) It was the scent of dry air (I was from humid Iowa and mid-Missouri) and new-mown hay!

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    6. Her uncle, however, still held onto the land--her inheritance--for her, which is kind of amazing for that day and time.

      Now, that's a true hero!! Through thick and thin, drought and flood, raids and cholera, whatever the family went through, her uncle held on to that land for his niece. Makes you wonder about a man like that because he could have easily just "assimilated" it into his own holdings, or sold it. Fascinating!

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    7. You are exactly right, Pam. That's what impressed me about that story. BTW, I left out one little snippet. The great, great grandmother died in the yellow fever epidemic, but her husband died, too. The same day, leaving their daughters orphaned.

      Oh, and something else you'll find interesting. My husband's great grandmother went on to name her children after the aunt and uncle who raised her. That's another aspect that speaks volumes.

      Makes me wish I wrote historical.

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  5. Mindy, great post! God is in all the details. When our house suffered the water damage in October, God was in all the details. I had no idea how to fix it, but God and the insurance people stepped in. When it came time for renovations, God brought just the right people in to make our house what it should be. And I believe God remembers dates, good dates and bad dates of things you've marked in your calendar for one reason or another. I had two things happen last year on, to me, big dates on my calendar. Good things, that especially for one date, makes that date not quite as sad as it once was. I thank God for that! Showed me how much He loves me and thinks about me. But the whole water damage catastrophe showed me a lot of things about God as we were going through the process. I learned a lot about God during that time.

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    1. Sally, don't you just love how sweet God is to us? Caring so much that He turns the bad to good. I hate that you had endure the water damage, but it sounds like it was one of those things that God used for good. Was it a leak or a flood? Whatever the case, water sure can do a number on things. So glad God brought you the right people.

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    2. A dog, who wasn't ours, (our daughter was dogsitting)turned the water on in the upstairs bathroom, while we were gone. By the time we got back, an hour and a half later, he'd flooded the upstairs bathroom; down the steps to the living room; through the bathroom floor to the kitchen ceiling, walls, floor under the bathroom, with water pouring from the kitchen ceiling, the light fixture, off the cabinets, over the stove, even from the doorjamb into the dining room with water standing on the kitchen floor; through the kitchen floor to the basement ceiling, with water dripping across the ceiling onto the furnace.

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    3. Oh, my! Now that's a story, Sally. Dogs, you gotta love 'em.

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  6. Mindy, ha, I WISH I could "throw in something just for word count." I'm still cutting my WIP as I whined about in a previous post. The good news is I only have 900 more words to cut, down from 1600. The bad news is I planned it for contemporary category length, so I'm running out of places to cut and have it still make sense. We Will Get THere.
    Whining aside, this is a good post and really good advice. We need to go as deep as we can with our characters, so our readers will want to go there too. I'm always amazed at how much "person" writers can pack into a Love Inspired or an LIS and still meet the word count. Definitely Not Your Mother's Harlequin.
    Came in through Chrome today, hope Blogger doesn't swallow my comment.
    Outrunning another snowstorm, back later.
    KB

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  7. Okay, that didn't work. Where am I?

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    1. Thank you Mindy. It wasn't a joke, my comments keep disappearing and I don't know why.
      KB

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    2. And now I see your original comment, KB. Honestly, I tried to go check the spam folder to see if anything needed to be released, but I couldn't find it. Glad Pam finally set you free.

      Cutting words is tough. I think I usually end up having to add some. I might be hard-pressed to shorten things. People say it's easier to add, but in reality it's not. Whatever you add affects what's already there. Sigh. Being a writer is tough.

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  8. Welcome Mindy and thanks for the reminder of just how magnificent our Heavenly Father was and continues to be in His details.
    Blessings!
    Connie

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    1. Good morning, Connie. Thank you for the warm welcome.

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  9. Hi Mindy, it's so great to have you at Seekerville. This morning I was reading in Exodus and you're absolutely right. God is focused on details.

    I know the details of my characters but find it challenging to balance what to share and what to keep to myself. Thanks for all of the great tips!

    (Last year my youngest son moved to Waco with his wife and I made three trips to your great state.)

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    1. Jackie, I just read this and thought, "I know I responded to her." Your comment must have been one caught in spam, too. Glad you persisted.

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  10. Good Morning, Mindy! Thank you for this wonderful post! YES, the Lord is involved in EVERY aspect of our lives. May I fully yield every area of my life to Him.

    Blessings!

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    1. You're welcome, Caryl. And that's a great prayer/challenge. Yielding can be tough. Sometimes we (read I) fight it, but we are always so much better for it.

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  11. Mindy, you did a great job in sharing this post. I so know about the "tell and show" (and I made up a rhyme, LOL).
    I loved what you said about God knowing the hairs on our heads.
    I'm currently working on my first contemporary romance novel called Twofold Love Comeback. What Mandy, my main character, loves about Adam Littleton is his long blond hair...both in the front *and* the back. Don't even get me started when it's wet either on a rainy day or when he's playing his guitar on stage.
    I am currently living out even more a compliment I received from a writer friend of mine about how well I describe my characters.
    Something I'm working on is, pausing the dialogue for some descriptive narration. For example, in Twofold, I go into as much detail as possible when Adam sees a Beatles album at the used bookstore Mandy works at that he has wanted for so long. Or, when they are about to watch a DVD at Mandy's condo.
    I want to keep the readers turning the pages when she meets Chris Keller. All I will say is, his physical appearance and demeanor cause Mandy to feel captivated, inspired. She only wants to know more about the guy who goes into the bookstore with his two sons and gives her stacks of two different business cards.
    In addition to writing romance, I also write contemporary Christian fiction. I'm soon going to publish my 4th book, Professional Fans. In this book, God speaks to two middle-aged women in an unusual way. As I'm writing this, I'm thinking about the three-worded "cliffhanger" at the end of chapter one: "Then one day..."
    For those details and more, feel free to connect with me.

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    1. Faye, it sounds like you're a busy writer. I wish I were that prolific.

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    2. Well, Mindy, that took practice. I've been at this for a little over 7 years. And yes, I'm busy. I don't have time to work my day job. In fact, after I publish this reply, I'm going to have to go to work. It's going to be hard.
      I also have no more time to clean or cook. Yet somehow, I make the time for it. And to eat, too. :)

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  12. Hi Mindy, it's so great to have you at Seekerville. This morning I was reading in Exodus and you're absolutely right. God is focused on details.

    I know the details of my characters but find it challenging to balance what to share and what to keep to myself. Thanks for all of the great tips!

    (Last year my youngest son moved to Waco with his wife and I made three trips to your great state.)

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    1. Hi, Jackie. And, boy, do I understand what you're saying about knowing what to share and what to hold back. Just ask yourself what it is that the reader needs to know right now, then sprinkle the other stuff in as needed.

      Waco is a fun place. Especially now that Chip and Joanna Gaines have pretty much taken over the town. I love to visit, though I've held off on going to The Silos because it's always so crowded. I just take heart in knowing that I got to visit their little store on Bosque before they moved on.

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    2. What a sweet memory. It's nice to see a family take such an interest in their hometown. Instead of complaining, they have taken action.

      Got it, what the reader needs to know right now. Thanks!

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  13. Good morning, Mindy!

    Here we are, on Seekerville! After years of chumming together in the Yankee Belle Cafe, we get to hang out together here. Isn't it great? (Still pinching myself)

    This was a great post. The more stories I write, the more I see how important it is to learn to know my characters well. Sometimes I know them so well that I don't realize no one else knows them yet and I start putting them into conversations. My poor husband...

    And you said, "Not only do you need to know what they look like physically, but what they look like on the inside. How do they view life? Are they perpetually happy? Have they been wounded by someone they once loved? Do they feel like God has let them down? What drives them? Why? And countless other questions, because if the author doesn't take the time to get to know their characters, the reader won't want to take the time either. What are some of the ways you get to know your character?"

    Do you have a special technique you use to get to know your characters so deeply?

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    1. Jan, I think I have a bruise from pinching myself. And now we get to talk about writing instead of food. Of course, we can always talk about food. Me love food.

      And I do the same thing with my husband. He took his life into his own hands once when he looked at me across the dinner table and said, "You know, your characters aren't real." I think I about choked on whatever was in my mouth. When I recovered, I glared at him and firmly said, "Yes, they are." He hasn't dared to say that ever again.

      I do not have a special technique, though it is a process. One that rarely moves as quickly as I would like it to. Prayer is the first step, then finding/deciding on a verse that relates to what the characters (and, often times, their creator) will learn or overcome during the course of the story. Then I start with where the characters are when the story opens and tend to go backwards from there. How did he/she get to this point? What decisions did they make along the way and why? And though I do my best to get to know my characters before I actually start on the story, they are famous for holding back. They like to wait until I'm writing the story to reveal some things, which drives me crazy, because it often means going back to see if/how that knowledge changed anything else. If only they'd be more forthcoming in the first place, this author's life would be so much easier. Unfortunately, my characters seem to feel the need to build a relationship with me, too, and wait until they're sure they can trust me before divulging too much. Yep, it's definitely a process.

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    2. This is a great process, Mindy. Thanks for sharing because I'm still just learning the ins and outs of character creating. This is great stuff.

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  14. Mindy, I judge and layer in the details as I edit and rewrite the manuscript. Rather than rushing through a scene, I consider every sentence closely. Does it contribute to the story? Can I improve it? Or should I delete it?

    Some authors do this unconsciously, but others like me are more focused on dialogue and pacing. For me, writing is like constructing a wedding cake...layer by layer...finishing it with icing and decorative flowers.

    Thanks for your post!

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    1. Ooh, Barbara! Love your analogy. And thanks - now I'm hungry. Lol

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    2. Yes, what she said. It's wonderful when some of those important details manifest themselves in the first drat though! :)

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    3. Amen to that last line, Pam.

      Barbara, I love your wedding cake analogy. Probably because I love cake. All that buttercream icing... But I digress.

      Honestly, I wish I could write more the way you do. I'm very linear and sometimes too detail oriented for my own good. I tend to over-analyze. At least until I whine to my husband and he tells me to just move on. I pout, then I move on.

      Needless to say, everyone writes differently and each has to find a process that works for them. As long as those details make it in there, it's all good, right?

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  15. Mindy, welcome!! We're so glad to have you join us. What a wonderful post!

    I especially loved when you said: "Not only do you need to know what they look like physically, but what they look like on the inside."

    That's such a great way to state that. I love discovering those interiors! And making them up. :)

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    1. Missy, it's kind of like when we were kids playing with our dolls or imaginary friends. We have a blank slate and can do almost anything we want. But unlike when we were kids, there's always a hard part. I don't like that part.

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    2. Mindy, that's funny that you related that to playing as children. I LOVED creating worlds for my Barbies! I guess I was a writer in the making at the time. :)

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    3. I don't know about you, Missy, but for me, Barbie and Ken were always falling in love. Guess that romance bug bit me early.

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  16. A Texas size howdy to you this morning, Mindy! It's so lovely to get better acquainted with you, friend! You are so right about the details and God's attention to them. His creativity is truly inspiring.

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    1. Waving howdy right back atcha, Beth Erin. Yes, I look at those photos and am in awe of His creativity.

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  17. Hi Mindy. God is definitely into details, no question about it. Sometimes I am amazed by the small things He cares about when there are so many BIG things to be concerned with. I am a detail writer. I have to watch myself to not get TOO detailed. Part of what what I love about writing is that God always provides the details - just enough!

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    1. Morning, Cindy. And those little things... I can barely manage writing and taking care of my family, yet God is always there, providing those things I wasn't even aware I needed provided. It's so good to know He's got my back, that I'm never alone and He's always there when I need Him.

      Oh and do I get being too detailed. I don't struggle with it quite as much as I used to, but there was a time... Oy. I guess maybe I am learning.

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    2. Cindy, I have to be careful too, especially in a story where setting is important. We need to get JUST the right balance, don't we?
      Kathy Bailey

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  18. Mindy, what a great post! You nailed so many things I think all writers struggle with from time to time.

    I adore details. Lol BUT...yes. I find that my stories can indeed get too bogged down with too much info or unnecessary description if I'm not careful. That's why the brutal honesty of critique partners is so important. They help us see the forest when we keep planting trees.

    Many years ago, I loved a much-revered author. I was sad when she retired. She enthralled me with her vivid description and page after delightful page of larger than life details. I suspect (today) newer authors couldn't get away with that, but her style/storytelling ability are what made me keep reading.

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    1. You cracked me up, Cynthia. "They help us see the forest when we keep planting trees." Oh, can we plant us some trees.

      And isn't it funny how writing styles change? Or I guess I should say, acceptable writing styles. And who decides what's acceptable anyway? I think it's a ploy to make sure we never stop learning.

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  19. I think the most beautiful stories are layered with details. Like the perfect painting, or an exquisite wedding cake, a lovely dress with dainty lace and pearl buttons, a chef's mouth-watering entree.

    Sure, there's nothing wrong a t-shirt and jeans or hamburger helper, but that's daily fare. What we remember is the wedding cake, especially if it's made beautiful with details AND delicious.

    Details make our stories beautiful and delectable. :)

    Now, I have a question for us writers. Mindy mentioned knowing your characters, and how the better we know them, the better we can sprinkle in those details that take the story up a notch.

    As hard as I try, I can't do detailed character sheets, trying to figure out my characters before I write. I might have a few details about their backstory, their GMC, etc., but there's a lot that I don't know, and it has to come out while writing the rough draft. And sometimes what I think I know is wrong, and things change.

    Is this fairly normal for the rest of you? Or do you know your characters well enough from the get-go that you can write all those interesting details in the first time around?

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    1. Pam, I can't speak for other writers, but I'm like you. I cannot do those sheets to save my life. For as detail oriented as I am, character sheets bog me down. I think it has to do with the creative process. Those sheets stunt my creativity. But there's nothing like typing along on your story and suddenly you have an epiphany. Like the clouds parted and you can almost hear the angels sing. I love those moments.

      BTW, thanks for mentioning cake again. Now I want cake. Perhaps an afternoon snack. I'll bring some for everyone.

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    2. Hey Pam, it's been my experience that detailed character sheets help us keep track of hobbies and interests, pets and eye color, but they don't really get to the essence of a person. Not to say we shouldn't do them (OH THAT EYE COLOR, IT'S TRIPPED ME UP MORE THAN ONCE), but we need to know them even more intimately. Just food for thought...
      KB

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    3. Pam, I get to know my characters as well as time/deadline allows. :) I'll be talking about that a little in next week's post, I think.

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    4. Ladies, you all make me feel so much better! I keep thinking I'm missing something by not sketching out the main character I'm currently working on. But in my heart of hearts, I feel like I need to discover her as I write, that she needs to grow organically. I know the most important things about her...goal, wounds, etc. So I think I'm going to stop fretting and trust myself and my character. I can see how sketching a character can be useful for some writers, but I tend to be more of a panster. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and helping me get over a hangup.

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    5. Karen, et al, there are many things people say we SHOULD do, but that doesn't mean we HAVE to. Yes, there are rules, and it's best to follow them. However, you have to find what's best for you. When I type an address into the map on my phone, it gives me more than one route. Sure one is shorter, but the other might take me someplace I've never been. Find the route that works for you.

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  20. Whether reading or editing, I am definitely more drawn into a story if it causes me to question, to want to know more, to dangle details along the way.

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    1. Those sprinkled details are like the proverbial carrot dangling in front of us, aren't they, Beth? We want more and have to keep reading to get them.

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    2. Beth, who has edited some of my indie novellas, as well as Janet, my critique partner, have to pull that out of me! I'm not a detail person. I plow through with just dialogue if left to my own devices. LOL

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    3. Mindy, yes, exactly! Don't 'word vomit' all of the details at once. Just enough to keep the intrigue & let the details unfold throughout the story.

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    4. You may need to tweak things here & there, Missy, all writers do, but your stories definitely keep me interested! :)

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  21. Mindy, great post! Yes, I am a detail person. Sometime to a fault.I've been told to ease up a little on my planning and details. :)

    I LOVE that our God is so detail-oriented. IT's so beautiful when you can look at something in nature or in our lives and see His attention to detail working thorugh it all.

    As for writing, one tip I've heard is when layering in detail in a setting, give a little bit at a time. Picture the character walking through the scene and share the detail as he/she sees it. Interspersed among the action and dialogue.

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    1. Just realized I probably caused the duplicate post. I released one from the spam box without checking to see if it had already appeared. :)

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  22. Mindy, great post! Yes, I am a detail person. Sometimes to a fault. I've been told I might need to ease up a little on my planning and details. ;)

    I LOVE that our God is so detail-oriented. It's so beautiful when you can look at something in nature or in our lives and see His attention to detail working through it all.

    As for writing, one tip I've heard is when layering in detail into a setting, give a little bit at a time. Picture the character walking through the scene and share the detail as he/she see it. Interspersed among the action and dialog.

    Loved your pictures of Ouray!

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    1. Hey, hey, Ms. Jeanne. Sending hugs your way. I love my pix of Ouray, too. Makes me wish I were there.

      That's very good advice on setting details. And the character's perspective will be different depending on whether or not they've been there before and if they have, what kind of memories does the setting hold. I've had to stop myself a time or two to go, "Wait a minute. He grew up in this house. It's not like he's seeing it for the first time." But that's when it can get fun, because you can inject bits of backstory as memories. Just bits, though.

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    2. Sorry your other comment got held up, Jeanne.

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  23. Welcome, Mindy! I'm a very detail-oriented person in my real-life, but in my writing and reading, I tend to be a minimalist. I skim over descriptions because I seriously love good dialogue. I have to stop myself from just writing (or reading) dialogue because it's my favorite, but I forget that my reader does not live in my head and can't see the expressions, surroundings, etc. Thanks for being here!

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    1. Yes, Glynis, if only readers could read our thoughts. Then again, I might scare them. Not to mention they'd have to be really good at following the bouncing ball.

      If I'm writing a scene I'm really excited about, I will do just like you. Write the dialog and nothing else. Oh, it's great dialog. Then I come back later and think, "Wait a minute. What are they doing while this conversation is going on?" I don't care for that part. I mean, who needs to know what else is going on when there's great dialog, right?

      Thanks for stopping by, Glynis.

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    2. Glynis, I'm the same way! My first drafts are talking heads. LOL

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  24. Great post, Mindy!

    I honed in on your comment about hurting our characters. At first, I never had anything bad happen to my hero and heroine! They were never wounded in a gun battle or bloodied in any way. Then I had a bullet hit its mark. Oh my gosh, that was fun. My hero was injured. The heroine cared for his wound. Great drama and angst. From that point on, I started injuring my characters. I especially like fight scenes. Really, I do. Crazy? Hmmm? Maybe.

    Back to my WIP. Hoping to include a fight scene today! :)

    BTW, did you register for the National RWA Conference? Who else registered? I'll see you there!

    Hugs!

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    1. Hi, Debby. Yes, ma'am, I'm registered. As for hurting your characters, I could also see that adding some romantic tension as the heroine cares for the hero.

      Hurting our characters can be difficult because they're like our children. We wouldn't deliberately hurt our children. But, goodness, it makes a story so much better. And when the story gets better, that's always fun.

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  25. Hi Mindy! (Mindy-Lou-Who) ;)
    Such a great post today---going into my Keeper File.
    I tend to go into too much detail when I'm talking, but in my writing I think I need to add more at times.
    What I really, really struggle with is conflict and hurting my characters! That is SO difficult for me---but I have to do it to strengthen my story so I'll have more than just sweet little happenings. Blah!
    Thanks sooo much for sharing this today, and I hope you'll be at ACFW in September!
    Hugs, Patti Jo

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    1. I'm planning to, Patti Jo, so I'll be looking for you.

      Perhaps you should try a little exercise. Pick a scene in your WIP and ask yourself, "What's the worst thing that could happen to my character here?" Then just play with it and have fun.

      Say your heroine's goal is to get to the store to buy some formula for her baby because she ran out at home. How can you keep her from getting to the store? Car wreck? Runs out of gas? Or maybe she makes it to the store, rushes in with a crying babe, grabs the formula, gets to the checkout only to realize that she's forgotten her wallet. You've created conflict and upped the tension. (One of these days I'm going to have to use that scenario in a book because I just keep thinking that the hero is probably standing behind her and offers to pay for the formula.:)

      Like I said, just take one scene and try that little exercise. You might be surprised not only by how it comes out, but you might even enjoy it.

      Big hugs, my friend.

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    2. Thank you SO much! I'm going to try this tonight with my WIP. :)

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    3. I want to hear how it goes, Patti Jo.

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  26. I suppose I'm detail oriented... as in when I watch a movie or reread my favorite book I psycho analyze every look, word, gesture, etc.

    I think that maybe the thing I struggle with the most with writing detail, is being able to describe my detail in a way that makes sense. There's a broken wire between my brain and my hands on the keyboard and it seems that no matter how hard I try, I can't get the detail out the way I imagine it and if i try too hard, I end up making it confusing.

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    1. Hi, Nicki. I feel your pain. Sometimes it's difficult to succinctly convey what we see in our minds. When I find myself struggling with description/detail, I pick up a book or two from my favorite author(s) and see how they handled detailed scenes. I might see a turn of phrase or a word that I hadn't thought of before or might not normally use. Try to focus on those things when you read to see what you might be able to glean.

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  27. This is a great post, Mindy. I adore feeling my way through a book, caring about the characters and even getting excited about getting to visit a setting again in a series. All Thanks to talented writers like you who know how to show not tell.:-) And I loved hearing more about your ranch, though you forgot to mention the snakes. Shudder.

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    1. Kav... Ixnay on the nakessay. Besides, they're hibernating.

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  28. I am still trying to learn all those details. One day it will all fall in place.

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    1. You are so right, Wilani. It may not magically happen, but there will be a lightbulb moment.

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  29. Welcome, Mindy. Glad to have you as a new Seeker. This was a good post. I struggle with that fine line between not having enough detail and having too much. The info dump is something I need to avoid.

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    1. Thank you, Sandy. You know, at one time, I was queen of the info dumps. Until my lovely crit group set me straight. Though I still couldn't understand why the reader didn't need all that info. Now when I stray, my editor has no hesitation to let me know. ;)

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  30. When I'm doing detail work, I think of it like a vintage car... if you go overboard, the car looks cheesie... It's like you're trying too hard to have a notice-me vehicle.... But if you give a little less... maybe leaving them wanting more... then you've got a vintage classic... the kind of detail folks remember, the kind that gives the platform for the late-coming storm.... or the burst of sun.... or the falling tree, rotten to the core... or the man hiding just out of sight in the neighbor's yard.... A little often goes a long way.

    Why don't I remember that with TALKING???? ;)

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    1. That's a perfect explanation, Ruthy. Though you could easily substitute a teenage girl and makeup for the vintage car. A little definitely goes a long way. :P

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  31. Lovely post today, Mindy! Sometimes I get so caught up in the destination, I forget to pay attention to the details...and there's so much beauty in the details!

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    1. Erica, speaking as someone who is very destination oriented, I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes we forget to stop and smell the roses.

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  32. Wonderful post! Yes, I'm detail oriented. I'm an accountant by profession, so it's in my nature. Thank you for reminding us to stop and notice the details in God's creation. Not only does He paint us beautiful pictures, He also walks along with us throughout the day, helping us in ways we may not recognize immediately! God's always in the details.

    I've only written and published two books, with #3 just starting edits, so I'm still learning how to incorporate details without "telling" or overwhelming my readers with info. I think I've done a fair job with my first two books. I try to sprinkle in detail throughout the story. Yes, I read writing craft books, but the best way for me learn is to read well-written books.

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    1. Anne Carol, aren't you glad that He walks with us? I don't know how I'd make it without Him.

      And I agree about craft books vs reading well-written books. I appreciate craft books, but they tend to stifle this show-me gal. I want to see the execution.

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  33. Oh I absolutely believe God is detail oriented! You just have to look at His word like you said, He knows us intimately, He formed us in our mother's womb and fashioned our days before they were even written! If that's not detail orientated I don't know what is :-) Look at someone taking anatomy in school and they can tell you how complicated the body is, right down to the very DNA we carry inside of us...and some people don't believe there is a God...wow...how can you not by seeing Him in creation??

    Mindy, I found myself nodding my head in agreement so much at this post I probably looked like a bobble head doll., lol! It's those little details in a book that make me care about your characters and what's going on around them. When I care about your characters, I will come back for more time & time again...I guarantee it!

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    1. Thank you, Trixi. And I think I just joined you on the bobble head thing as I was reading your comment. I think we could go all the way back to creation when talking about how detail oriented God is. All of the animals, birds, insects, fish... And Adam had to name them all. Oy! That would have been one tough job.

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