There were six hundred and twenty-one words about how the writer enjoyed her walk that morning.
The trees she passed were tall, and their leaves a burnished amber in the fall. Dead leaves crunched under her feet. One of her French bulldogs--a rescue--loved to frolic in the leaves. The younger one didn't. The woman smelled the smoke from fires in the fireplaces of nearby homes, but she personally thought it best to wait until it got colder to light a fire. She heard the sounds of small critters rustling in the woods. Maybe it was the squirrels that swiped all the bird feed from her feeders. She wore the brown leather boots she got in college, and her favorite green sweater. The cold made her cheeks red. When she got home, she took off the sweater but left on the flannel shirt underneath, and made a cup of tea—Earl Grey.
You get the picture.
We know we should “show, don’t tell.”
But readers aren’t interested in a blow-by-blow account of how you make breakfast or choose which wine to buy. We are doing all this ourselves, minute by minute.
We read in part to escape this relentless unfolding of everyday life.
We need to see only enough to orient ourselves into the world of the character at a particular moment. We need only the important stuff.
In this example, it might be a brief mention of two sensory details—perhaps the cold on her cheeks and the crunch of the dead leaves.
And then, one additional detail that gives insight into the character or what’s going on.
The most interesting detail would be the boots she’s had since college. Why did she keep them? What does it say about her sense of style, of who she is? How have they held up over the years?
This tells us more about her world and how she experiences it.
Only the important stuff. That’s what keeps readers turning the page.
Ann Kellett Editing