The Angel’s in the Details

I wanted to share one thing from the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles. Walter Dean Myers was the keynote speaker the first day. His voice is like James Earl Jones’s and he has a marvelous, easy, natural delivery, and spoke about what distinguishes good writing from the other kind. He read a sentence from a novel he’d once critiqued: “I stormed into the bedroom, paced the hardwood floor and then collapsed on the bed.” As he said, this sentence gives the reader some information but it’s not good enough.

He said a writer should always be looking for “the detail that explodes the moment.”

This exploded my mind. I’ve been thinking of it ever since. Just yesterday I was thinking of details that could have exploded the sentence above. Did the door crack when she slammed it, did it bounce open again, did the door handle fall off? Did she kick a stuffed animal across the hardwood floor? Were the sheets on the bed rumpled and dirty? Or was the bed covered with a white duvet and 600-thread-count sheets? Did someone’s voice roar up from downstairs after her? Or is she a he? Is there a Ruger under the bed? A computer on the desk clicking through possible passwords to hack the bank downtown?

3 thoughts on “The Angel’s in the Details

  1. Exploding the moment: I like that idea! My problem is that I tend to OD on details. I am currently revising a novel and trying to take away all the details that do nothing for the plot, leaving only those that make the moment come alive.What a great phrase, though! I’m going to try and remember to explode a few moments instead of burying them under a suffocating blanket of details.


  2. My son just discovered Walter Dean Myers over the summer. I’m all too thrilled to see him reading something other than fantasy and Sci-Fi (smile).Dean’s advice is so on point, isn’t it? I plan to file it away under, “things I need to keep in mind.”


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