The reality of our world, its emotional resonance and unique atmosphere, is found in the details. Either we see it though the familiarity and ordinariness of our main character, or we see its strangeness through her confusion or entrancement. So it’s important for us to know the details ourselves. Just as we can walk around our homes in the dark, knowing exactly where we are, so must our characters. What is real to them needs to be real to us. This provides authentic atmosphere, tone and mood. We don’t need to invent everything, but we do need to learn to develop an instinct to connect details with emotions effectively.
Where to start? Right here—exactly where your character is now.
Free-write: Set a timer so you’re not clock watching. Write without stopping for eight to ten minutes. If you can’t thing of the next word—repeat the last word until something else comes to mind, even if it’s random. Write thoughts, words, and sentences—whatever comes out. Ignore spelling and punctuation. Don’t lift the pen from the page!
Exercise One. Choose the room your character wakes up in. Start from her first moments of consciousness and go. Is it a familiar bed or not? Sheets—yes or no—clean or dirty—silk, or cotton, or straw, or an unknown substance?
Exercise One-Part Two. Choose a city that will be in your world, real or imaginary, regardless of whether one of your characters will ever go there. It can be a myth, a historical place, or current to your character. Free-write everything you think you know about this city, or hope to discover.
Share: Did any detail surprise you?