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Telling details


10june00110june00210june003‘Telling details’ is a stock piece of advice I give at creative writing classes, along with ‘show, don’t tell.’ But it is amazing when students move from writing about generalities and amorphisms to particular details – green bicycles and yellow shirts, late season apples and the like. Suddenly the writing is vivid and specific, so much more their own story. I think other reasons I was so insistent that the fridge repair man could tell stuff about me by the contents of my fridge was firstly because it was embarrassingly grubby, and secondly because I read too much Agatha Christie as a teenager.

Oh, and here’s that Jarvis Cocker song I was talking about. He doesn’t say ‘deeply superficial’ – instead he says ‘I am profoundly shallow.’ I can’t remember song lyrics for the life of me. All my lyric remembering was used up in my youthful Smiths devotion. In another song on the same album he says ‘don’t write a novel, a shopping list is better.’ I wonder if his advice should be taken.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Emma Jean Kelly permalink
    10/06/2013 12:55 pm

    He’s the coolest fridge repair man ever! It’s always the unexpected encounter that is so fascinating….I love it.

  2. 10/06/2013 1:18 pm

    Yay for Jarvis Cocker (and Sheffield)!
    I can’t have normal conversations with people anymore – I’m always culturing them for story specimens. I say the stupiedest things just to see what their reaction will be – a person perturbed is a fine subject for a story, I find.
    I like the fridge man and his philosophy – and his moustaches!

    • Sarah Laing permalink
      10/06/2013 5:08 pm

      Sometimes I feel a bit guilty about concocting everyday encounters with people into stories… but he was uncommonly philosophical and he didn’t really have a moustache – I gave him one to change his identity.

  3. David Geary permalink
    10/06/2013 2:35 pm

    Life in the fridge exists! Jarvis Cocker and I are soulmates – born on the same day. Help the aged… I’m not Jesus, we just have the same initials, I’m just the man who stays home and does the dishes… genius.

  4. Sarah Laing permalink
    10/06/2013 5:05 pm

    I love Jarvis.

  5. Vanessa Berry permalink
    10/06/2013 10:32 pm

    I have a plumber who gives me inadvertent life advice in the course of working on the always-blocking pipes here – so I love this comic!
    One of my writing teacher colleagues uses the abbreviation RWD for “telling details”… real world detail.
    Third and final comment: check out this DIY Jarvis wallpaper.

    • Sarah Laing permalink
      11/06/2013 9:25 pm

      I love that wallpaper! And I am going to use that abbreviation in my next class. It sounds a bit like a big truck. Or maybe that’s a 4WD.

      • Vanessa Berry permalink
        14/06/2013 12:15 am

        It’s a good acronym. RWD! Sounds important. It *is* important! (having just marked a lot of assignments lacking in RWD…)

  6. Lucy permalink
    11/06/2013 9:02 pm

    I think this is my favourite LMBF comic, ever. But then I always think that. I’ve always loved Jarvis too, sigh…

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