I wanted to share one thing from the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles I attended earlier this month. Walter Dean Myers was the keynote speaker the first day. His voice is like James Earl Jones’s and he has a marvelous, easy, natural delivery, and spoke about what distinguishes good writing from the other kind. He read a sentence from a novel he’d once critiqued: “I stormed into the bedroom, paced the hardwood floor and then collapsed on the bed.” As he said, this sentence gives the reader some information but it’s not good enough.
He said a writer should always be looking for “the detail that explodes the moment.”
This exploded my mind. I’ve been thinking of it ever since. Just yesterday I was thinking of details that could have exploded the sentence above. Did the door crack when she slammed it, did it bounce open again, did the door handle fall off? Did she kick a stuffed animal across the hardwood floor? Were the sheets on the bed rumpled and dirty? Or was the bed covered with a white duvet and 600-thread-count sheets? Did someone’s voice roar up from downstairs after her? Or is she a he? Is there a Ruger under the bed? A computer on the desk clicking through possible passwords to hack the bank downtown?