Details Matter, I Suppose

Did you know that Suzuki Hayabusa Sportbikes were not around in the early '80s? Well, duh. But in the name of specificity I mentioned that Jake, my antagonist (the same guy who - oops! pulled a gun from his belted underwear), rode a 1300.

In my second pass through it hit me that my story is set 30 years ago (another reason for beta readers!). So, of course, I needed an era appropriate bike. Voila! Jake now owns a GSX 1100. (Isn't the internet a wonderful thing?)

Okay, so quick lesson - check your facts, proof your work, and know what you are talking about. Or at least use Google.

But some might wonder, why get so specific in the first place? Why not just put Jake on any ol' motorbike? Because I think specificity usually engages the reader and puts him or her into the story. It gives the mind something to grab on to.

For example, a brand name (along with action and description) has more punch to it than a generic blah-di-dah. Which do you like better? "She drank her cola by herself." or "She siphoned her Coke alone in her closet."

Plus, in the case of my novella Worm, a specific reference to Jake's Suzuki GSX 1100 helps establish the story's time setting.

Of course, relentless branding or specific references can get old. You don't want to label every item in your story with a logo - someone might wonder if you're being paid for product placement. <grin> So pepper them throughout your story with a restrained hand. That way, when you do add a detail that has a specific image tied to it, the effect can be quite engaging, especially if used as a metaphor or in a simile.

Here's one that I'm partial to. My protagonist, Worm, is a teenager in the early '80s, so he grew up in the '70s, obviously. He's teased relentlessly and after entering his 4th grade class late, he's self-conscious and awkward. The teacher points him to a chair in the back of the room. So with that set up:

The class, as if watching a final kill shot on Pong, followed him to his desk.

Specific, visual, and an era appropriate reference. At least I assume it is ... I better check Google.