The devil’s in the details

2015_December_tricycle“Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything. Or a broken billboard. Or weeds growing in the cracks of a library’s steps. … The details are always the starting place in speculative or fantasy fiction. They must be clear and textured.”

Stephen King (Writer’s Digest interview, May/June 2009)

This great piece of advice was in an article entitled “Novel Writing from A to Z” in the January 2016 issue of Writer’s Digest.

When I think about novels after I’ve read them – and the sign of a good novel to me is that I am thinking about it afterwards (Mediocre novels fade for me as soon as I’ve completed the last page) – it’s often the tiny details that lodge in my mind. I love when the author describes a scene and I’m convinced I can envision it perfectly, and that imagery has the ability to fill me with a sense of foreboding, or fear, or sadness, or hope, or happiness.

I agree, that kind of ability isn’t simply a trick. It’s hard work.

What do you think, readers and writers? Do you love these details, too, when you’rre reading or writing? And writers, do you agree it’s hard work to get them right?


  1. thewallflower1988 on December 14, 2015 at 10:27 am

    I adore detail, I try to incorporate all five senses in each scene I write. This is not always possible but I find that it surrounds the reader with a world outside of the place they are existing in currently. I am a firm believer in transporting the reader to somewhere they’ve never been.

    • kimberlysullivan on December 15, 2015 at 9:13 am

      Thanks for the comment. Agree with you entirely! I love to feel I’m in the hands of an expert author and transported into another reality. This use of detail that can make me feel as if I can see/smell/hear/touch/taste that world are so important to the reading experience.

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