As a writer of intricate fiction, it’s sometimes hard to keep track of the story. Last night, my thesis advisor told me a story about the book he’s writing right now. In the first draft, he “lost a character.” Yup. Lost him. A little guy, a child, was “stuck under a tarp” in a scene in his action/adventure book…and disappeared for the rest of the book. Yes, he had to go back into the draft, find the little guy, and write him back in.
I feel better.
Because I keep loosing track of characters and their details. What color was his hair? What was she wearing? Who was in that scene, again? Gah.
Details are my biggest Science Fantasy writer memory-challenge. How does the world work, again? (In that scene, what kind of technology did I create? Did the M-4 have a trigger or was the weapon simply heat released, by touch? Was the medline in his wrist visible to the human eye? And how much of the world was wiped out by the famine, really?)
It’s true: You don’t have to know the entire world, to write SF. You simply need to know the world that the present scene touches, and work outward from there. (I was listening, Russell.) But once the scene unfolds, there’s a detail to remember that popcorns up. And another. And another.
So I’ve gone back to using a notebook for keeping track of details, with good ol’ pencil and paper. When writing a scene’s detail — whether it be the color of the falconer’s glove or the mole on the guard’s cheek — I whip out the notebook and write it in. My Detail Bible. DB.
Works for me. Maybe it’ll work for you. And, hey, life application: When the details overwhelm, try something new — a new organizational system. And if the old system that used to work isn’t working anymore, so what? There are a bazillion ways to do it “right.”
I’m at the coffee shop, ready to go, Detail Bible next to me. Onward to M-4s and medlines…