I’ve never met Lois Lowry and I doubt she has any idea how terrific I am. But for my money time, she writes one of the few truly excellent blogs out there by authors. I mean to say, it’s not all self-obsessed twaddle. Maybe it’s because she’s already successful; Lois doesn’t feel compelled to relentlessly beat the drum of self-promotion. But actually I think it’s because her interests range far beyond her own self, and the blog reflects that. So I make it a point to swing by from time to time.
Lois Lowry, right (she’s the one in the turtleneck).
I recently commented on one of her posts, “Do I ever work?” In it, Lois took a rare moment to discuss her writing, offered up some thoughts on transitions, and was mildly critical of another writer’s work. (Note: Lois admits to mostly reading books for adults. I can relate to that.)
Anyway, Lois used my comment as fodder for today’s blog post, provocatively titled, “Put clothes on him. But not too many.” It’s about including details — without going overboard. You should read it.
When I ask my daughter, Maggie (age 9), to describe a movie she’s seen, she’ll go into excruciating, mind-numbing detail. Well, she’ll begin, warming to the topic, this happened, then this, then this, then this . . . until warm blood starts trickling from my ears. “For the love of all that is good and holy,” I’ll cry, “get to the point!”
That’s when I learn she’s only on the previews.
Maggie, you see, is at that stage in her development where she can’t quite separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s all important, and therefore, of course, nothing matters. I’ll beg, “Please, dear heart, just give us the highlights.”
It’s a basic mistake for many young writers. Too many details, too many dreary facts, most of them meaningless. As authors, we must seek the telling detail, not bury our characters under mountains of fact.
Anyway: I feel like the radio talk show caller who’s been on hold for the past half hour. Suddenly he’s gotten through and can’t quite believe it. “I’m on the air? Really? Lois, is that you? I thought you’d be taller.”