Who is he, readers want to know, and what outlandish things will he say next?
July 29, 2013
What makes the difference in writing?
I’ll tell you.
It’s not style.
Research has always important whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction.
Historical accuracy is invaluable.
So are place.
But when writers sit down to begin work on their next novels, they need to arm themselves with a few little throw-away lines of hard, cold facts in order to give their imagination the credibility it deserves to have.
These odd little details may not have anything to do with the plot.
But they bring life to story.
They provide insight into a character.
Writing about an airplane pilot? He may mention that a Boeing 747’s wingspan is longer than the total distance of the Wright Brothers’ first flight.
Writing about a coroner? He or she, in conversation, may let the reader know that humans and Koalas are the only mammals that have fingerprints. Perhaps the Corner lets it be known that an eyeball only weighs one ounce or a body has generally somewhere between two million and three million sweat glands.
When writing about locations, you might want to tell your readers that rain has never been recorded in some parts of the Atacama Desert in Chile, The Statue of Liberty’s index finger is eight feet long, or 250 people have fallen off the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and a few of them were probably pushed.
Readers like to learn something new. They prefer to read about the unusual.
Here are some little details that could come in handy while you are amusing and amazing your readers.
*The tip of a bullwhip moves so fast that the sound it makes is actually a tiny sonic boom.
*Kangaroos can’t walk backwards.
*Mosquitoes are attracted to the color blue than any other color.
*There are as many chickens on earth as there are humans.
*Former President Bill Clinton only sent two emails during his entire eight-years in office.
*The world’s largess Montessori school is in India. It has 26,132 students.
*An octopus has three hearts.
*The average person spends two weeks of his life waiting for a traffic light to change.
*if a person sleeps the recommended eight hours each night, he or she – at the age of seventy-five – will have slept twenty-five years.
*There are 200,000,000 insects for every one human.
*A Blue Whale’s tongue weighs more than an elephant.
Such bits of information can become part of the dialogue: “It looks like the bullet removed the right eyeball,” the coroner said. “Other than his sight, he didn’t lose much. The eyeball only weighs an ounce.
They can become part of the hero’s internal conversations with himself: It wasn’t surprising to find him lying at the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He’s only one of the two hundred and fifty people to take a fall from the top of the landmark. I don’t know whether he jumped or fell. But I knew it wasn’t an accident.
Or: There were fingerprints all over the desk beside her body. Only two creatures leave their fingerprints behind: a human and a Koala. These didn’t belong to a bear.
Or: The day was as hot as August. It was August, the twenty-fourth to be exact. The ground had cracked beneath my feet. The trees were dying. The lady’s lips were parched and cracked when she tried to smile. I guess it could have been worse. I could have been walking a beat on the Atacama Desert in Chile. They tell me it’s never been touched with rain.
Unnecessary to the plot?
But such scraps of information do add a little life to the story. Armed with off-the-wall facts, characters can be as literary, as professorial, as intellectual, or as bizarre as you want them to be.
The character suddenly becomes somebody the reader wants to know more about.
Who is he? They ask themselves.
And what outlandish things will he say next?