Writers Choose Their Details With Care


CloseUpItemsFrBudapest#1_20151018_174025The Great Market Hall of Budapest (Központi Vásárcsarnok) stands on the Pest side of the graceful Liberty Bridge. The ornate two-storey marketplace is crowded with local shoppers and tourists, and a plethora of goods. Once inside, I plowed past displays of home-baked breads, red strawberries, fresh meats and vegetables, cases of cookies, stands of paprika, grilled sausages and beer, painted pots, embroidered blouses, enameled boxes, t-shirts, fur hats, leather gloves, handmade pottery, lace tablecloths, carved wooden saints, and many variations on the Rubrick’s cube, which originated in Budapest. It was dizzying to choose just a few items from this vast array.

After staggering out of the teeming marketplace with a tiny bag of purchases, I realized the shopping experience was similar to what writers must do to achieve a well-crafted story. As writer Avi stresses, editing is what shapes our work and makes it better: http://www.avi-writer.com/blog/2015/02/keep-going/.

Writers, like wise tourists, learn to choose their items with care. Details not only add realism but must support the unfolding themes and subplots of our stories and reveal our characters’ hidden qualities. When we authors are confronted with an unwieldy first draft, a swollen word count, and a loose-limbed plot, we can’t keep everything. Like shoppers, we have to choose, and choose well. We are told, and it is true, that everything must support our vision, no random detail thrown in just for fun.

So what was in the tiny bag I carried out of the Great Market Hall? two cans of paprika, a pinched pottery cup, a wooden puzzle, a wiggly spoon, and a painted barrette. These items all evoked Budapest for me. And like a well-edited book, fit very nicely into my suitcase.