Details are vital in any piece of writing. Nowhere is this more important than in novels, where we have the opportunity to create an entire world full of incredible people (or animals) doing amazing things.
The reader is going to need a story that is immersive, believable, interesting and unique. That’s a lot to put into our books, and sometimes the thought alone can be a daunting one. The following tool of digging deeper can be one that accomplishes many of those things, and a whole lot more.
An Inch Wide, A Mile Deep
Whether we are talking about character, setting, plot, conflict, or anything else, it’s important to know how to truly connect your ideas to the reader’s mind.
Most often, a detail which is explored in depth will have a more concrete effect on the reader than a hundred details thrown in without much thought. The first one creates an environment where the reader cares and becomes invested. The latter can leave the reader skipping along the surface and never developing a real, visceral attachment.
Creating Deeper Characters
We want our characters to be real and sympathetic, and we know it’s not always easy to build such a thing. The concept of depth over width is well used in this situation.
A reader will often bond with a character over one or two traits which they find interesting. It could be that there are aspects of the character which are similar or very different than themselves. It could be that the character can do amazing things for some reason (hyper intelligent, innately powerful, appointed by a special being etc…), or that the character is limited in some way.
The most important thing to understand is that readers want and need to connect to these things on a DEEP level. If the character is timid, explore than in depth. Why are they shy? Did they have an abusive past that made them so? Are they lacking confidence or are they depressed? Are they simply inexperienced? Perhaps they have a sibling who is much more powerful than they are and so they’re insecure about their own ability.
Instead of giving the character nine traits and just sort of throwing them out there in the hope that one will stick with the reader, pick one or two things about them and explore every aspect of that ONE thing.
Fewer Details, Deeper Details
Fantasy readers are often huge fans of details. They like to read about the food and politics of the new places they’re exploring, as well as the magic and unique creatures. Using our idea of introducing fewer points of detail to your advantage can really immerse the reader into your world faster and more completely.
For example, instead of telling your reader that the weather is different on this planet, the politics are crazy, the ground moves, the trees talk, the animals are all black, the sun never shines, the people all have different colored eyes, etc…, pick a couple things about the world and build your story around that.
A thousand details can become very boring if they aren’t part of the story. If you tell me that every animal on the planet is a certain color, but you don’t tell me why, then I don’t care. If the trees can talk, but they never interact with our characters, then there’s no reason to spend time on it. Instead of showing (or telling) the reader every single thing you know about your world, pick a few that can illustrate the rest of it and explore those few things with great depth.
The animals are all black because the sun goes away for ninety percent of the year, leaving the planet cast in darkness. The animals have adapted to be camouflage in the absence of light, and this is particularly dangerous when traveling about.
Now, instead of moving on to ninety other details, build your story around these concepts. Go deeper not wider. Why doesn’t the sun shine? What does that do to the plant life? Maybe it kills most the plants, so these animals are all carnivores. How would this make the land more dangerous, what are the conflicts that can arise from this?
Connect everything else to this idea, build out from it. Maybe the king is the king because he knows a light spell that only his family can cast. Maybe the most powerful race on the planet is one who can see in the darkness. Perhaps they can all see in the darkness due to adaptation, and it’s the time of year when the sun returns that sends them all running. Maybe it’s the one time of year, and a short one, where the oppressed can try to overrun those who can only see in the dark. ONE detail can create your entire story, if it’s explored fully.
Write a Story With Depth
Writing this way creates something unique for the reader, and it also gives them time to connect and explore with the characters. Of course, there are many ways to write a story, but this tool can be one that helps you create something which feels more thorough and fleshed out. Often, these stories are more satisfying and memorable.