Going That Extra Mile

Books need to be three-dimensional, they need to grab us and pull them in. I love it when a book just grabs me and takes my mind to the places the pages describe. Sure, I don’t want everything laid out for me, a little bit of brain power is the best way to create this pull, but you get what I mean.

I have read a fair few books this month – of varying lengths – and have noticed one thing in a lot of them. They lack depth, that final something that gives the book its je ne sais quoi

One such detail is not in the storyline, or in the main characters, but rather in those smaller interactions that make life what it is. In other words… the extras.

One of the books I read had this down to an art, and as a result the book was wonderful. I remember one scene was made not because of the emotional revelation, nor the interesting dialogue between two central characters, but rather because of an extra. The wife of one of the conversational participants. It was her one and only appearance in the book, and her role in the scene was minimal, but the description of her, and the presence of her at the table, made the scene what it was.

It should not really come as a surprise to us that these finer points play such an important role. Throughout life, the impact of strangers affects us. Chance and fleeting encounters. The same person seen on a daily commute; that stranger on a train, surrounded by mystery. We never approach them, because we know that the truth will not beat the mystery, the intrigue. As writers, we too must understand that some characters need to remain in the distance. Their role in our lives played out from afar is much more influential than we could ever realize… until it is too late.

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