Telling Details review

So y’all know I got a Kindle for Christmas and have been having mixed feelings about it. One of the things I like is all the neat stuff I’ve stumbled on for the thing. One book I finished this week was, and this is for the writers more than the readers. Yes, yes, I know. I don’t usually review the non-fiction stuff I read, but I’m making some exceptions this year.

I picked up a copy of Telling Details by Kat Duncan.

The book is primarily written for aspiring writers, with advice on how to make the story compelling to readers and the all-important editor. Advice includes things like, using sensual detail, ways to simplify instead of complicating your manuscript, and including certain details that anchor the reader into your book and how much , really, to use. Some is like sensual details (touch, hearing, sigh) and such like that. Things most of us use every day–erm (apologies to hearing and sight-impaired readers.

There’s a lot of “workshop” wisdom here, much of which is, in this reader/writer/reader’s point of view some useful, some, well, I don’t know. The useful bits I found were her suggestions on action sequences and how to deal with them effectively, to slow down the scene so to speak, without slowing it down. I also found her take on mannerisms, and telling vs. showing quite interesting. Also, the section on eye expressions and locations.

While I find some of  her suggestions worth trying, some… I don’t know. For instance she mentions my friend Marilyn’s workshop 11 senses, which, um go beyond the five, into an esoteric realm–which isn’t bad, it just depends on how literal you want to be, I suppose.

She also cautions the writer not to use “ten cent words”.  She offered an example that included the words Kinetic and cordovon and alfresco–which, I don’t know, I maybe weird, but made the scene seem more alive to me because of those words. (But then, I’m a geek with an English degree)

I must say, of the whole book which I did find some interesting tidbits in, this one bothered me. I’m sorry. I like the idea of stretching my readers’ minds—and, oh, learning something I read. Learning a new word is cool. *tsk* And to move out of the Romance genre, to  another… You know,  Science Fiction and fantasy are often rife with unfamiliar words, almost all of which add flavor to the books.


Gandalf: Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,

ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.

Translation: ‘One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the Darkness bind them.’

Think about it. Somehow it seems way more powerful and sinister when Gandalf speaks the Elvish version doesn’t it? (Or maybe I am just a geek. ;))

So, there are some tidbits one could find useful in the short tome, and I must admit, I did make a few notes that I thought useful for my own work, and  if you’re curious as to why your favorite writers make something of the editorial and narrative decisions they do, this book might give you a glimpse into their thinking. So I’d give it maybe a  4 out 5 stars.

If you want to give it a shot, it’s available for Kindle, free at Amazon.

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