Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Detail (Wo)Man

The Sister is my best friend, a true 2 A.M. buddy who would come running no matter what silly thing I needed her for. And I need her for plenty, as she is also Martha Stewart Jr. The woman can cook, decorate, re-upholster furniture, refinish furniture, garden, build things and do light automotive work. Plus, she can clean like nobody's business.

I know. You're saying of course she's my best friend, if she can do all that. Oh, yeah, I know I've got it good.

But The Sister has to do things her way. And her way will, at times, drive me out of my mind.

A fr'instance (how we southerners say, "for instance") is an event The Sister helped me prep. I asked no small thing of her: take a room that looked like Post-war Beruit Grunge and turn it into Elegant Tropical Wedding. And after we hung yards and yards and yards of tulle and grass skirting, yanno, it DID.

As the deadline drew nigh, though, I found myself saying to The Sister as she fussed over some insignificant detail, "It will do. I promise, nobody will notice. If the Decorating Police appear, I'll bail you out."

The Sister refused to listen. Martha had fully taken over her body, and nothing less than perfection would do. "They'll SEE it," she insisted. "And it will spoil the mood. Then they'll start looking for other things that are wrong."

It occurred to me how that was what I would say about a bad fact or a character behaving illogically in a book.

Writers have as big a job as The Sister did. They have to turn printed words into a believable world. It has to ring true. The faintest false note will start breaking the spell. The suspension of disbelief won't stay suspended for long.

It was a reminder to me to make the extra effort, to really, really know what I write. That doesn't mean to stick with writing what I know (that'd be boring!) But it means that I need to reach out to the resources I have. And chances are, what with the internet, Twitter, Facebook and the connections I've made in life, someone can help me out when I need it. It may well be the person who, if I hadn't asked, would be throwing my book against the wall, saying, "That's all wrong! That could never happen!"

Saying big prayers for the folks in Nashville ... my heart aches for the entire city and everyone who has been affected by these floods. A big prayer, too, for the rescue workers, the medical personnel, the social services folks and the utility company employees -- Lord, keep 'em safe, and help them get a LITTLE bit of sleep when they can.


Piedmont Writer said...

Praying for Nashville now.

And I too used to me Martha Jr. Now, not so much. Except for my writing. THAT has to be perfect.

Nice post.

Piedmont Writer said...

Used to 'be' Martha jr.

Mary McDonald said...

I have never been a "Martha" and in fact, never quite understood the Martha's of the world, but now that you've related it to writers--I get it!

Tawna Fenske said...

This is an excellent point! I notice this all the time when a critique partner or beta reader will stumble over one small screw-up in a scene I've written. Like if my hero says something that borders on jerky, the reader will spend the whole rest of that scene being angry with him and finding fault with everything he says. But if I just fix that one line of dialogue, the whole scene suddenly reads differently.

Great post!

Penelope said...

Great post!! This definitely gives me something to focus on in my writing.

Angie Paxton said...

Really enjoyed this post! I'm a bit of a Martha, Jr. in everything, not just my writing. Nothing but perfection will do.

Mia said...

Great post! There are a few 'Martha Stewart' people in my life. They drive me nuts sometimes (there's seriously only TWO dirty dishes by the sink. That bothers you? Really?), but I love them, of course ;)

I think getting the details right is definitely important. I hate when I read a book, and I'm thinking, yeah, that would NEVER happen in real life. Kind of ruins the reading experience for me. Thus the reason why I should probably work on making my own writing more realistic ;) Thanks for the reminder!

Cynthia Reese said...

Anne, I'm imagining you Martha-ing fence posts and I'm cracking up -- glad you have transfered your Martha-ing to your writing. The Sister's such a Martha she hides her microwave.

Mary, when it comes to writing and reading, I'm very much a Martha, but everything else? Nah. Not so much.

Tawna, I cannot stay angry with your heroes. They're just so ... swoonworthy. :-)

Penelope, glad you could get something useful out of it!

Angie, I'm suspecting that I can never, ever invite you over to my house to play. Not until I let The Sister white-tornado it for me, anyway.

Mia, it's funny, The Sister says I'm way too picky in my reading. She says, "You're a writer, you should cut them some slack." I point out that she never cuts ME any slack. :-)

Linda G. said...

Excellent post! It doesn't take much to knock a reader out of that fictive trance--and it's hard to lull them back into it once that has happened. Just one more reason critique partners are invaluable.

Julie Musil said...

Ok, now I can relate a little more to my own sister, who is also the Martha Stewart type. Weird huh? We writers have sisters who are amazing decorators?

Susan Fields said...

Sisters are the best (even if they drive us nuts at times!)

Al said...

I find I can be a Martha (is that possible for a man?). Maybe I should say perfectionist :)
I can often only see the mistakes in something I have made. I need to remember to listen to those who say things are OK.

BillRicksofSoperton said...

As always, your sister did a perfect job, and I'm very sorry I didn't do pictures except the entrance. Where was my mind?