Friday, January 17, 2014

Attention to detail

Tonight I happened to think back on a meal I had last fall, at a very nice restaurant. I have remembered this meal fondly many times, and tonight I started analyzing why. Not only because "analyzing why" is one of my favorite pastimes, but also because I suspect there may be some parallels to writing. Maybe the elements that make a meal memorable could also make a book memorable.

What I noticed about the meal, even at the time, was how perfect every detail was. My companions and I tasted one another's food, and every element on every plate was marvelous.

I had a big pile of green beans on my plate. If you've eaten green beans, you know that often there will be some stringy ones in the batch, or a few tough ones, or some that get overcooked or undercooked. But in this batch, every single bean was tender and delicious. Someone in that kitchen checked every bean, and if they had any bad ones, those didn't make it onto the plate.

Most of my food was deceptively simple--fish, green beans--but dessert was more complicated. It had several ingredients. And those ingredients went together. I had the feeling that every one of them was carefully chosen. Again, each individual component was done well, none of them bringing down the others.

So here are my take-home lessons: Care. Thought. Attention to detail. Making sure every component is the best it can be, and works well with everything around it. Not phoning it in, not being sloppy.


  1. This makes me hungry! It seems my favorite books are definitely the ones that focus on the care and attention of the prose as well as the plot and characters, all working together to create a truly beautiful product.

    1. I like when the little things are all working right. It gives me so much confidence in the author's skill, so much trust that the story will take me to the right place.