Effective Use of Detail: Now You See Me

As an avid reader/movie-goer, there’s nothing more cringe-worthy than being stuck reading/watching unnecessary detail. (This ties into my post yesterday about answering your audience’s questions.) I’m already giving the book/movie so many hours of my life, I do NOT want to feel like they were wasted.

Now You See Me is a movie I’m particularly fond of for how it excels at giving you just enough. For those who haven’t seen it, this movie is about a team of illusionists (magicians) who are working for an unknown boss and slowly bringing down various corporations/people. You don’t understand the connections completely until the very end. And of course, to add to the tension, throw in a couple cops (one French, which adds to the spiciness) who are being hoodwinked at every turn. Overall, it’s an excellent movie. But if you’re going to watch a movie, you might as well learn something from it, right?

In this movie, you’ll miss 90% of the detail the first time around. Enjoy the story and character banter. Then, a couple days later, watch it again with a pen and paper. Take notes. What little clues did the screenwriters drop giving you insight into the character’s relationships? What names keep popping up here and there? How do they tie together? Figure out everyone’s ulterior motive. You can do this when you pay attention to the details. There’s always enough to keep you guessing, but never so much that it becomes overwhelming.

Detail can be used in so many ways to develop characters, plot, drop clues, you name it. But because it’s used for so many things, detail can harm you as much as it can help you. Have you ever gone on a first date and found yourself feeling uncomfortable, because that hunk your coworker set you up with is giving you a little too much information about how Mexican food makes him feel? So in your writing this week, let’s treat detail like a first date. Give them just enough to leave them wanting more.


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