From "Burn Notice." Fionna on the left, Carlos on the right.

From “Burn Notice.” Fiona on the left, Carlos on the right.

This picture is from the television series “Burn Notice,” currently burned. This screen-cap shows how you can subtly insert meaning into a shot, without calling attention to itself. (This applies to writing, too.) This scene takes place in an artist’s house, so there are always canvases hanging around. In this particular scene, these two characters are breaking up. The male character, Carlos, says to Fionna, “You’re traveling a path with Michael…and I can’t go down it with you.”

When I first watched the scene, I didn’t notice the painting–but it was there, obviously. And when you back and watch a second time, the scene has more impact because of its presence. Now, the director could have chosen ANY painting to be there, or nothing at all, just a wall in the background. But making those subtle choices is really what separates excellent art from the rest.

On the podcast, based on what I learn from my writing group, I talk about details all the time–which to use, which not to use…with the basic point being that the creator must at all times be in control of their creation. With details, this means using ones that resonate with your larger theme. And this assumes, of course, that you have a larger theme in the first place. But once you do, then it’s your job to choose the best details to represent that theme throughout the piece. And those are the kinds of things that make the reader want to come back to your writing for more, more, more.

These techniques, of course, can be applied to any art form to create a long-lasting bond with your audience. Which isn’t to say I’m an expert at doing so, only that I’m learning all of these things along the way. And I happen to share them in a handy podcast format.

What do you think? How much work do your details do?

Posted by Frank Marcopolos

Frank Marcopolos founded "The Whirligig" literary magazine in 1999, which has been called "a landmark, demonstrating the power of the literary underground." It has been said that "you get this true lion-roaring sense that Editor Frank Marcopolos knows what he likes, and how to read, and how to publish, and he has guts, and eats insects on Wheaties with bleach." His long-form fiction has been reviewed with such praise as "thorough-goingly entertaining" and "highly readable...recalls the style of Michael Chabon or John Irving. A literary gem that should not be missed." A broadcasting-school graduate, his unique literary-audio work has been featured in movie trailers, scholastic environments, and on YouTube, with one of his audiobooks achieving over 100,000 "views" there.

One Comment

  1. Agreed.

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