Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

Today’s tip for writers: Pay attention to details in your writing

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I’ve mentioned on this site before the importance of paying attention to details when you write. In this case, I’m thinking of details and accuracy in your fiction writing.

When I mentioned this in the past, I think I used an example from a novel I was reading some years back about Adolph Hitler. It made reference to Hitler’s piercing black eyes. As it happens, I was editing some material just a couple of days before I read that scene which made reference to Hitler’s “icy blue eyes.” Ah, I thought, what color were Hitler’s eyes? Isn’t there a way of finding out — and shouldn’t one of those writers have checked their facts more closely before making reference to Hitler’s eyes? (Hitler’s eyes were blue.)

As writers today, we have a world of information at our finger tips through the Internet and various online sources. Specific physical characteristics and the appearance of historical figures are only one tiny area where we need to be sure of our facts.

Take clothing and fashions as another example. I was writing about the Old West and ran onto information that the average American man in the early to mid-1860s rarely wore creased pants. They were considered “dandified” or effeminate for “real” men. If you were writing about life in the mid-1800s in America, you would write it better if you were aware of that.

Moving into contemporary society, I was watching something on television today and heard reference in passing to that “smokey eye look” which is attainable for every woman of beauty and style with the appropriate makeup. I have no idea what a “smokey eye look” would be. I glanced up as the smokey-eyed beauty was moving off the TV screen, so I missed most of the image — but, frankly, were I come from we call the look I thought I saw “dark bags under her eyes from rough living and lack of sleep.” She looked to me more like someone who needed a good eye cream for wrinkles than like an object of beauty.

When did telephone service come to Denver, Colorado? I researched that a few years ago when I was working on a Western novel set in 1880s Denver. One of my plot devices involved the city’s fledgling telephone service. (I believe there was a functioning telephone center in Denver with several hundred customers by 1881 — but I’m not certain about that now and cannot locate that research.) Since my story was set in 1882, I just squeaked by the accuracy factor on that one.

Anyway, you get the idea I’m harping on here. Pay attention to details in your writing. No matter how obscure your topic or writing details may be, someone out there will run onto it and correct you if you get the facts wrong.

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