Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Little Things

The lovely Liz is posting this for me today, because with any luck, I’ll be in the USA having the Christmas celebration that was cancelled back in December due to snow.  Thank you, Liz!

I’ve been doing revisions on my next book, and though some of these revisions are big, structural ones, many of them are quite subtle and small.  For example, my editor asked me to soften up one of my secondary characters, the heroine’s younger sister.  This involves changing some of the things she says and does, and the way my heroine thinks about her.  But surprisingly often, it can consist of just changing one or two words.

For example, here’s a sentence in my first draft:

“It’s none of your business,” Pippi spat at me.

In the revision, I’ve simply changed it to:

“It’s none of your business,” Pippi sobbed.

With the replacement of three words, Pippi’s gone from an antagonistic person to a vulnerable one.  She’s no longer attacking her sister; instead, she’s trying to put up defences.  It might not be great, world-shattering writing (and yes, I know I broke The Sacred Rule of only using “said” for dialogue tags—so shoot me), but it does what I need it to do.

Even little tiny things can affect how a reader perceives your character. 

I often notice the little things in what I’m reading, too.  I’ve recently read two books (by two different authors) where a character was meant to be urbane and sophisticated.  And yet, during a formal meal, these well-bred characters pointed their fork at the person with whom they were conversing.  I’m assuming their forks were empty, and not loaded with a heap of sauerkraut or whatever, but still...this little lack of table manners destroyed the illusion completely for me.

Have you made similar changes lately?  Or noticed little things that were exactly right—or exactly wrong—in what you’re reading?

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes little things like that can irritate me, but I usually find that if it's a really gripping story I don't care. Only if there are lots of things that niggle, then they start to add up to total dissatisfaction.

    Agree that tiny changes can make such a huge difference though!