By: Tamsen Schultz
Not everyone agrees that paying attention to the details can actually be fun. But for a reader, it’s the details that can make or break and story. And for a writer, it’s the details that can sometimes be the most entertaining part of writing.
When I had a couple of people pre-read The Puppeteer, many of them asked how Dani, a CIA agent and my heroine, could work within the United States. Despite the common belief that the CIA doesn’t work within the US, I knew they did (because I knew a former agent). But “because my friend said so,” isn’t really good enough and doesn’t translate to print, I needed to provide a real answer somewhere in the narrative. And so I looked it up. Believe it or not, the CIA actually has a very interesting FAQ page – who knew? And question number six “Does the CIA spy on Americans?” held my answer. (Although my favorite question was number thirteen “Are there secret agents like James Bond with secret gadgets?” – they couched it, but yes, they do.)
And when my dad read The Puppeteer, he sent me an email that went something like this “You reference tin foil as a method for disrupting the underwater security system of the drug lord. They stopped using tin in ‘tin’ foil in the early 1900s. Now it’s all aluminum.” Thanks, dad. Seriously. We may still call it tin foil, but it’s not and it’s a detail that some readers, readers with more knowledge of manufacturing history than I, might pick up on.
So why do the details really matter? As a writer, they’re a fun excuse to do some research; I learned more about the CIA and international economics in the past year than in four years of college. But my edification isn’t why the details really matter. They really matter because no writer wants a reader pausing in the middle of a scene and thinking, “That’s not right.” So yes, the devil is in the details. And while getting the details right may slow us down, or make us change our stories if, at the end of the day, at the end of the story, you close the cover (or turn off the electronic device) and think, wow, that was fun, the devil may not be so bad.