The Little Details

A question to ponder as writers and as readers is how much detail we need to be given about a character:

Do we need to know the exact brands of clothes they wear or car they drive or even the type of drink they consume?

Are there better ways to show a character’s personality and preferences without spoon feeding it to the reader ?

When you start out on your journey as a writer you always receive lots of advice on how to craft story – on how you should craft it. Advice which as you hear more of it begins to conflict with each other, confusing and frustrating to listen to. Of course, there is always the flavour of the month word which needs to be avoided at all costs, removed from your writing and banished to the depths of story writing hell. But there is one piece of advice which is repeated over and over, never changing in the importance placed upon it – Show, don’t tell.

So, that brings me back to my questions at the top of the post. Is stating a brand name of something telling the reader as opposed to showing them?

He strode into the boardroom wearing a Versace suit.

or

He strode into the boardroom wearing a suit tailored to fit his body and no doubt cost more than I made here in a month.

The first one tells  you the man has considerable wealth and leaves no room for the reader to imagine anything, plus it relies on the reader actually knowing how a Versace suit would look.

The second shows that he is a man of wealth and leaves it to the readers own imagination as to what brand of suit he might wear.

More examples:

On days like this, only a glass of eighteen year old Chivas Regal would help him forget.

or

It was top shelf whiskey kind of day. One he wanted to forget even it meant mortgaging the house to  do it.

Of course there are always exceptions, just like there is for every piece of writing advice found, read and told to you. The question you have to ask as you write, or when you edit is: Does the use of a brand name offer the reader anything ?

One thought on “The Little Details

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  1. Interesting thoughts. I prefer the second examples as I feel it gives more to the story. Also I have been told not to use brand names at all. Something about law suits and some brands can date a story.

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