I’m slowly realizing that it’s the little things that add up when writing. So much of my writing is intuitive that I don’t always understand what I’ve done until I go back and read the book. Take, for instance, my heroine’s perfume in THEORY OF MAGIC. I usually give my characters scents, and normally they’re just convenient additions to the sensory build-up of love scenes.
But in this case, I have a blind hero. So the heroine’s scent becomes a very important part of the book layering. If she’s not wearing it, he can’t know where she is unless he hears her voice or recognizes her footsteps. So he needs to notice if she’s not wearing it and wonder why.
In my April 25th release, CHEMISTRY OF MAGIC, the details aren’t as simple. For one, the hero is dying, presumably of consumption. But he’s not dead yet, so he’s very aware of everything his new wife does—from not touching the people she loves to her unusual attitude toward her maid. Since intellectual curiosity is his driving force (after making money), my heroine’s collection of peculiarities keeps distracting him from his work.
That kind of detail—as simple and silly as it sounds—adds the depth and texture that makes a story seem “real.” Yes, I love a fast-paced, witty, dialogue-filled book, but if the author gives me specific details in one place, I want them to continue in the background elsewhere. The hero can’t stop limping in the middle of the book. (Note to myself <G>) If he does stop limping—then there must be an extra layer to explain it, and as a reader, I’m eager to find out what it is.
I love the verisimilitude of historical details woven into a good historical as well. I just finished reading an Andrea Penrose mystery, and she’s neatly added forensics, Regency style. She shows the state of chemistry and the types of microscopes available in the period, which gives the story a solid foundation and adds depth to the characters who use these newly emerging sciences. A book that had only dialogue and action would leave the reader with talking heads—a far less satisfactory experience, in my opinion (having just finished one like that).
Do you enjoy, or even notice, the small details that play out in the books you read?