Details breathe life into a story. The senses are awakened and heightened, transporting the reader into the world created by the writer. But there’s another, powerful purpose to small details that brings an added dimension to a story.
If you choose to give an enhanced role to a small detail, choose wisely and don’t go overboard with the number of details you emphasize; it will overwhelm and frustrate your readers. Enhance one or two, and let the rest play a supporting role. Here’s an example: In our recently-completed series (yay!), Lennox has a set of engraved lockets made – one for him, and one for his wife, Maggie. On a romantic night under the stars, he presents them to her and they put a lock of each other’s hair into them. These lockets evolved with the story and became more than a fitting story detail.
So, let’s think about the lockets and what they can do. First of all, they can be seen and touched, and perhaps they have a bit of a scent (forged metal, engraving residue, etc.). They hold bits of hair that were seen, touched, and perhaps held to the nose for a scent of lavender or hay from the stable. When they are worn against the body, they are a constant reminder of their presence, the memories of the night they were exchanged, and the love that will always exist between Maggie and Lennox.
As the series progresses, Maggie finds herself wearing both lockets along with a small, silver bell Lennox gave her (can’t tell you why – sorry). The combination reminds Maggie of their love as she goes about her daily routine; every now and again they’re mentioned (and the reader sees/hears them) as a reminder of their importance not only as a story object, but also a carrier of the emotions and feelings they hold and convey. At one point in the story, the lockets and bell appear to sound a warning to Maggie – does she heed the warning?
Now that you’ve introduced this tiny, powerful detail, you can’t let it drop off into nothingness. Your readers remember it, are invested in it, and are waiting for it to surface again at just the right moment. The lockets in our series played a huge role from the time they were introduced until the story ended (they even had a role in the epilogue).
Small details are so much fun to create and work with! They even have the power to become a character in your story, so choose wisely and you’ll be amazed at what they can do!