Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Story is in the Details

The Story is in the Details
By Margaret Daley

We all know that character and plot are important elements to writing, but I'm here to remind you of the importance of the details in your story. I had a friend tell me she sent out her book for endorsements. When one endorser emailed her with her endorsement (a good one), she casually asked my friend what happened to one character. My friend had the character in book one. He was the adoptive son of the hero and heroine of that book. In book two she forgot to mention the child. This series was about a family. She couldn't believe it had gone through edits and many reads by various people and no one asked about the little boy.

I had a series where I changed the name of the deceased husband of the heroine from book one when she was a secondary character to book three when she was the heroine. But a reader asked me about it. I had to fess up that I had made a mistake.

It can be hard to keep all the details of one book straight, let alone details of a series where the characters are in more than one book, and you share a town or location across the books in the series. So how do you keep track of all those details?

You need to keep track of them before you write the book/series, during it and afterwards. There are a lot of ways you can do it. I use charts I've created on Excel as well as a pad of paper I have for the story. Some people use different kinds of software programs that are out there (example: Scrivener). Others use spreadsheets or hard copies of what they need (example: putting the details up on a pegboard or in a notebook).

What do you keep track of? Some of the elements you track are your characters (everything about them from their appearance to goals, conflict and motivation), plot (main and sub plots--all details), setting, point of view, timeline of story, weather, logistics in a scene, questions that need answered in the story, research and anything else pertaining to your story.

In every book there are a lot of details you need to keep straight. That is why it is important to have some kind of system other than just your memory to help you keep up with all the details. Take time to think of what works best for you. Investigate different methods of tracking all the details in a story and then use one. This becomes evident especially when you write a complex story with many characters and subplots like my October book from Abingdon Press, Severed Trust. If you don't keep the details straight as you write it will cause you a lot of problems and more work later in the book (not to mention mistakes in the story).

It will save you time in the long run if you have a system. You won't have to dig through your manuscript trying to verify a detail because you will have it down in your system you used. Also, you won't receive reader letters about the detail you messed up. But mostly, it won't stop someone reading your story because he or she is trying to figure out what is going on and is getting confused. Whether this is an agent, editor or reader, you don't want someone confused. You want them to keep reading.

Remember the story is in the details, so keep track of those details.

Blurb for Severed Trust, The Men of the Texas Rangers Series:
The day Sadie Thompson finds her high school student, Lexie, asleep in class and can't wake her is the day she realizes how entrenched a prescription drug ring is in her school. As Sadie is pulled into doing something about the growing problem, she becomes involved with Ethan Stone—a Texas Ranger who suspects the drug ring reaches far beyond the high school. Helping Lexie recover from the overdose, Sadie feels she is making a difference—until the 16-year-old's best friend dies from the apparent mixing of various prescription drugs. Lexie doesn't think her friend took her own life, but her relationship with her Uncle Ethan is precarious and she doesn’t know if either he or Sadie will help her discover the truth.

Bio for Margaret Daley:
Margaret Daley is an award winning, multi-published author in the romance genre. She has written inspirational romance and romantic suspense books for the Steeple Hill Love Inspired lines, romantic suspense for Abingdon Press and historical romance for Summerside Press. She has sold ninety-two books to date. 


  1. Margaret, you are so right about keeping those details straight! Back in the beginning of this year, I read a book that was part of a large series. I enjoyed reading about this couple getting together. In a book farther along in the series, they finally find out they are expecting. Another book has them with a toddler and she is expecting again. The next book after that, guess what, they only have one! No explanation at all about what happened to that second child! It was a side story and I still liked the overall book, but I kept finding myself wondering what had happened! Distracting to say the least.
    Brittany McEuen

  2. Love your books Margaret!

    Deborah Malone

  3. I can't even imagine how hard it is to keep up with all of the little details, especially when writing a series! I LOVE reading a series and so appreciate all the work that goes into continuing plot lines, characters, settings, etc. As you said, the story is in the details!