Scrape Together All Your Story Morsels So None Go to Waste

Salvador Dalí: Two Pieces of Bread Expressing the Sentiment of Love

I love the word morsels. Little bits of butter and grease at the bottom of the pan after cooking. Those crumbs left on your plate after a crusty loaf of bread. It makes me salivate just to think of it.

Writing produces morsels as well. Those tiny notes and details that are essential to making good prose great. All these writing tidbits need to be stored somewhere or they’ll get lost and your story’s continuity will suffer.

My first serious job (after a stint at Carl’s Jr.) was as a graphic designer. We always had files that weren’t essential to the finished project, but that we needed to reference or use from time to time. These we stuffed in a folder called morsels.

So when I started my first novel, the details piled up faster than I could keep track of them. Which hand was that scar on? Did I capitalize the name of that hall? What’s his mom’s name again?

Finally I broke down and composed a table in my word processing program. Nothing fancy, just three columns wide. This became my morsel list.

In each box goes some sort of detail. I don’t try to organize or categorize them. That would take time away from the real writing. The idea is to have them all in one place so that when I write, I can pop it open to check on capitalization details, or the age a character was for a backstory.

I’ve even taken to jotting down common errors that crop up, so I can do a search and revise to edit them out. I suppose a notebook would work just as well. The idea is to get all the tidbits of your story down. This isn’t the big stuff like plot or characterization. These are the sorts of details that easily get overlooked or lost.

When you get the little details right, your work vibrates with authenticity. I recall listening to Stephen King comment on these sorts of details. (in an afterword to one of his audio books—probably Bag of Bones). He saw them as invisible cables tying the story together.

Just one detail, repeated in the right spots, can link everything together for the reader. But if the detail is botched, then the reader will wake up from the fictive dream, and quite possibly decide he or she should close that book and head to bed.

Don’t let that happen.

Get your morsels all in one place. Be it a computer file or a little notebook. Put it all in there. The more organized you are, the more time you can focus on writing those words you love so much.

Tim Kane

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About Tim Kane

Tim Kane is a young adult fiction writer.
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