It’s a Chinchilla: Tiny Details

The full title is… It’s a Chinchilla: Tiny Details That Don’t Make it Into the Narrative.

While I was working on the edit, I came across a scene where a small rodent is mentioned and very briefly described. It’s an unimportant detail, in that I could have described it in any innocuous way and accomplished the same purpose. It only had to not be a rabbit.

When I read this, I remember deciding that the creature was a chinchilla. As I continued, I noticed that this fact was not anywhere in the narrative. And I caught myself wondering if that matters at all. In about the same moment, I decided that it didn’t.

But my brain was still working. Mostly in a diverting sort of way. How many times do we as writers have little facts like that? And how often do we exercise restraint and refrain from including it when it doesn’t matter?

I mean, it’s a very common beginning mistake to tell or include too much. I’m still reading a lot of short fiction, and I see it all the time. Too much information, unimportant and unwelcome over-clarifications. Characters arguing over trifles with the reader.


(Photo credit: Travis Nicholson)

Does it come from caring too much? Pettiness? Misaimed focus? I don’t know. I also don’t know if it’s quite worth making it part of one’s editing process to remove extraneous details like the chinchilla, if they were included.

After all, there is the issue of world-building. If a character goes to work and the important part of the scene is to show that her boss is corrupt, is it a problem to mention that the company is having bring your daughter to work day? Maybe not. Maybe it shows that the boss is very good at keeping up appearances or obfuscating his misdeeds with events like that.

Just don’t waste time justifying it. Spending time doing so is fine, if you think the story needs it. But don’t waste time doing it.

Short post because I can barely type today.


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