When you fly over a forest, in a plane, it’s easy to forget that the forest is made up of individual trees, bushes, flowers, and animals. Yes, it’s important to see the big picture, but you should never forget the individual parts that go into making the big picture. Let’s take a look at the panoramic photograph of Portland, Maine above. What you see is a very wide angle of the port, and city. What is not seen, or noticed is that it took three photos to make this. (if you want to see the process of this photograph go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYxOcvSjmDg and watch the video)
The same thought is true for writing. Whether it’s a short story, or an epic novel, you can’t have a whole, without the parts. Too many writing instructors try to get their students to focus on the plot, (the panoramic) and not enough focus on the three parts of the plot; setting, situation, and character.(The three photos). If you want your story to be well rounded, you need to go deeper into each of those three, to bring the details out, (Parts of the three photos like the boat, and specific buildings.)
When you write a story that you want people to read; you want readers to see, taste, smell, and feel everything your character experiences, but that will never happen if you don’t focus on the details.
Let’s try a quick example. Elizabeth slowly ascended the stairs; the freshly sharpened hatchet from her father’s workshop felt like an extension of her arm which hung down by her side. She quietly entered the bedroom where her mother napped, and began to use the axe on her mother’s head. Her task completed, she made her way downstairs, and hid under the stairwell to wait for her father to pass out drunk on the sofa, like he did every night.
As gruesome as this little scene could be, this scene is lacking details to bring the reader into the story. Details that answer questions such as; “Why did Elizabeth feel compelled to murder her parents?” and “What made her use the axe?” If you’re like me your mind filled in a lot of blanks. I did not get this from an actual horror story; this started from an actual murder case, and I added some of my own ideas to make it a different story. As the scene reads right now, this could have been part of a news article.
During your first draft, most of the scenes will read just like this; just a shell of action, without all the gory details. Even though you aren’t writing them down now, keep a notepad next to you to keep track of them as you need to. The first draft is basically looking at the forest from the plane. When you begin revising, you will be landing the plane, getting out, and exploring the forest floor.