Life & Literature, Defined by Signficant Details

significant detail

We often get caught up in defining ourselves with one word, like "firefighter or "mother." But, people are complex. As we get to know someone, they become less one-dimensional, less one-word-definable. They begin to be made up of all the little things that make them unique, and different than the other 6 billion genetically similar beings on the planet.

Writers call these things significant details. They are what takes a character off the page and makes them real.

The sounds of a voice: 

"She was only extemporizing, but a stirring warmth flowed from her, as if her heart was trying to come out to you concealed in one of those, breathless, thrilling words" F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The way they carry-out their mornings: 

"What did I want to know? What hung on the walls and whether he had a stove that had to be lit with a match, whether the floors were tile or linoleum and whether he wore shoes when he walked across them." Nicole Krauss, Great House

Those lines aren't just about noise or interior design, they express something deeper.

Writers know that falling in love with a character is not much different than falling in love with a person. One day you peek in their sockdrawer and find : three rows of identical gold-toes stacked three pairs high, or a mismatch pile of woolens. And you think - isn't that just like them?

Right infront of you, all laid out, is a little piece of the very unpredictable, multifaceted person you share your life with. And thanks to that sock drawer, that little but significant detail, you understand them a bit better.

(photo) on film with my pentax k1000 | my roommate in college


  1. i read your blog every day and love it. i'm getting ready to finish one of my final papers of the semester and it's a ten page script- this truly helped- so thaaanks!!!


  2. sam. you know just how to pull on every one of my heart strings :) this little piece is amazing.

  3. Wow. This post is so true - love it! Your blog is my homepage :)

  4. Christy hope your final paper went well. Significant details are some of my favorite things to write and read. And I love spotting them in someone I'm getting to know. (and sometimes I record them to give to fictional characters later)

    anonymous who ever you are, thank you. I wrote this morning thinking of greeting you with something new when you opened up your computer!


Thank you so much for commenting, Darling Reader! I read + love each and every one of them. (Anonymous commenting has been turned off due to robots)

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