Why details are important – not only in literature

This is an idiotic post, going around like a drunkard. Probably I didn’t pay enough attention to details when I wrote it. And now it’s too late.


why details are important in literatureSome days ago a friend of mine told me about a new card he had subscribed to.

It was one of those cards that reward your shopping around giving you back a usually very small percentage of the amount you spent.

My friend was adamant this card was the best thing since sliced bread. And to make his point perfectly clear he told me that you even got a one percent discount on gas–of course provided you used the right coupons and gassed up your car only in the authorized gas stations.

Noticing the glint of fanatism in my friend’s eyes, I kept my mouth metaphorically shut, and limited myself to make only vage, uncommittal remarks.

But our conversation got me thinking.

A caveman’s instinct

Now, I probably am a bit quirk. The fact is, I don’t like having any kind of affiliation to any shop chain, to any TV chain or anything else. And most of the times I buy something, I pay for it upfront in cash.

For example, the idea of loaning money to buy a car doesn’t sit well with me.

In particular, I don’t like the idea of having to pay for two, three or more years and at the same time going around in a sort of half terrified and stupefied state of mind, continually hoping not to have any accident in which I happen to be the wrong side of the law.

And this is so even if over the past twenty years I haven’t even scratched my car or anyone else’s.

Quite simply, I feel way better behind the steering wheel of a far less expensive car, but a car I’ve already paid in full for. A car I own, and not the other way around.

Call me a primitive caveman. but I don’t want instant gratification. Instead I want the gratification of instant freedom. Especially from financial shackles.

But I’m digressing here.

Keep thinking

As I was saying, my friend was keen to underline the potential for saving of such a card. And at a first glance it really seemed I could save some money using it–especially considering the card was free.

Yet, I balked at the prospect of actually subscribing to it–and with a religious zeal not too dissimilar from the one showed by my friend’s himself in pushing for its use.

The reason for such imperative resistance is simple. Take the example of the one percent discount on the gas.

This might look like a deal. After all, given we all have to gas up our cars anyway the idea of a discount really looks like an attractive one.

However, just driving around and keeping my eyes open, I can gas up my car at those gas stations that are practicing special prices. And to do so, I don’t need cumbersome coupons, or affiliations of sort to a card or another. All I need is cash.

Just doing so, the average discount I get is in the order of three or four percent.

In short, the sponsor behind the card “offers” people a meager one percent discount to make sure they stop thinking about where to go and gas up their car. This even if it’s apparent they’d better keep their eyes open to save a lot more.

I know. Here we are just speaking of a few cents. Yet, I believe it’s the principle that matters. In particular, the idea I can’t accept is that those people who use such cards should be paid to stop thinking.

Again, it’s a matter of few cents. But in principle if I offer some people a small but sure incentive to stop thinking about certain issues, then I could pay them more and more money to stop thinking about other issues.

A small step at a time… You know, like the frog in the pot of water heating up very slowly…


Of course, I’m a bit insane–even if many purists will now foam from their mouth to tell me you can only be insane or not insane. But not a damn bit insane.

Small things, big things

In any case, I wrote all these lucubrations of mine about being paid not to think because they are just as important in literature.

I mean, often serious authors–and I’m not necessarily referring to those who write a book every seven years or so–seem to fuss about such minor details that they end up being considered just guys craving the limelight, the attention of the public.

Now, while on some occasions this is certainly the case, more often than not, writers agonize over details because for them details represent the difference between a honest work and something that is instead as authentic as a three dollar bill.

In fact, in real life the slope going from being paid a cent not to think about a thing of small import to being paid a substantial amount of money not to think about essential matters can require several decades and is not at all a given result.

Instead, in a work of fiction such a slope is a lot more shorter and slippery. And serious writers know about it, at least on some level.

That’s why they seem to fret about details of small import. Because a title, an adjective, the name of the protagonist, are never just a title, an adjective, a name. They have to be as precise and honest as possible.

Because a book is a super condensed and organized interpretation of reality. A book is like a space shuttle. A marvelous construction where any detail can make the difference between success and failure.

Of course, with the space shuttle any mistake is almost immediately apparent, and lethal.

But details matter always. Also in literature. Or rather, from a certain point of view, even more so in literature, given that they are not immediately so apparent.

And given that is beyond any writer to write the perfect book, exactly as they have first envisioned it in their mind, their paying attention to all details they can is the only recipe to keep their books as true and honest as possible.


Pictures: ROverhate – Alexas_Fotos

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