Our house has baseboards, and today my hubby is taping above them in preparation for repainting. Baseboards are one of those things I’ve always taken for granted. Don’t they just run around rooms in straight lines to tidy up where walls meet flooring? Who knew they have to fit around so many corners and into so many out-of-the-way nooks and crannies to do so?
It’s a little like all the details that go into polishing a story. Inconspicuous but essential items that pull everything together, tidying up fictional versions of jagged gyproc edges and stray carpet fibers.
I’m surprised at how many messy bits I catch during revisions – the obvious discrepancies like the protagonist who has copper-coloured hair in one chapter and burnished blonde in another, or the child who can’t reach an item on a kitchen counter but has no trouble using the sustain pedal at his piano lesson. Obscure references to distances and time can blow your credibility, too. I had a character taking a flight from Vancouver to Toronto. She had a leisurely breakfast with her husband before leaving for the airport, and she miraculously arrived at her destination in time for a mid-morning meeting! (It’s a five-hour flight.)
Messy bits detract from a good impression of an otherwise well constructed story, just as much as dented, paint-spattered baseboards do from an otherwise tastefully decorated room.
Have you discovered any messy mazes in your current WIP that would have confused a reader, or has a critique partner or editor ever pointed out an embarrassing oversight?
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