Details are a wonderful way of bringing authenticity to a story or novel. In police interrogations, sometimes it’s the details which prove or disprove a person’s involvement in a crime, like what color was the car or the person’s hair?
It’s the same with a novel. If an author doesn’t know the color of her MC’s hair, what faith is the reader going to have with the author to spin a plot without similar holes?
This article below got me thinking about the myriad details needed in such an ambitious project. If one measurement is off, then a million other measurements could be off. Or as this article says,
But even a millimeter of movement in the soil can cause problems for buildings above the ground.
The structure of a house is often used as a metaphor for the structure of a novel. Structure is something that is not seen, and yet it’s irremovable from that which it holds up.
A novel is the same way. Most readers don’t notice the structure (and we don’t want them to!); they don’t see the 2x4s, the nails, the screws, the concrete foundation which all go into building the novel. But those tools are far from invisible in a novel–less invisible than they are in a house. In fact, if you look closely enough, you can begin to pick out the tools used. These are the details introduced in a novel, the tone, the word choice, the personality of the characters, the blank space on the page, etc. All of these details act together to form a novel that is intended to portray a certain message (i.e. theme).
In a well-written novel, these tools are invisible–unless they are purposefully being analyzed. In other words, the reader should not be jarred out of the story by them, but should be enjoying the read; only if they slow down and begin to analyze the structure of the novel should these tools be noticeable.
Sometimes if one assumption or one detail is wrong in a story, the entire house crumbles down. The structure can’t hold it up. That’s why it’s so important for us, as authors, to do the research needed to support our novel. It doesn’t have to be historical research, but if you write dystopian or historical fiction, you’d best know the history you’re trying to change. If you’re writing science fiction, you’d best know the science you’re trying to fictionalize. Even fantasy must have an element of believability. Fiction must be more plausible than truth, or else those details are going to intrude more than ever.