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Details, Details

We all know the importance of details, how they can make or break a poem, essay, or story. But what details do you have the hardest time with? For me it’s colors. I’m completely colorblind. Colors are hard for me to write because I don’t have natural associations to work with, so I often end up with either stereotypes or weird associations. As an undergrad I wrote something where a female character had green eyes. My professor asked me why and I said because I thought green eyed women sounded seductive. My professor laughed. For a long time. Because of this difficulty when I do find a color reference that works well I tend to use it a lot.

So what kind of details get you hung up?

  • Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.

8 thoughts on “Details, Details

  1. I recognize there’s a problem in what I’m writing if I realize a detail is interchangeable. I’m sure I have other problems with details too, but this is a rule of thumb. It usually means that how I’m saying it has been given less priority than what I’m saying; form has been unduly sacrificed for content.

    I like green eyes. People hardly ever have them.

  2. Honestly, I think just about every female character I’ve written as a love interest has green eyes. The last one, I consciously gave brown eyes, just to break the trend.
    As for details I get hung up on, I can never write a good sex scene. Ever. It’s either too much or too little. I think somebody posted something a while ago about contemporary writers having trouble writing sex scenes compared to somebody like Philip Roth. I can’t do it. I wind up making more of an allusion to what happened than what really happened. It’s like a Hitchcockian suggestion, an outline, rather than anything currently at the movies.

    1. sex scenes are tricky. i’ve been told i do them well, which is flattering in a weird way (but there’s nothing more awkward than sitting in workshop group and being told that your scene got a guy hard). i was told by my thesis adviser during my mfa not to write sex scenes, which i took as a challenge. and since he was fond of writing messed up ones, i tried to learn from him.

      have you read Steve Almond’s essay on writing sex scenes? it’s hilarious and very helpful.

      1. Thanks, Ryan. I just found it in a bunch of different places: Boston Phoenix, Nerve.com, Utne Reader, etc. “Remember that fluid is fun.” I love it.

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