Details Inform Readers Beyond Fictional Reality


Fiction writing gains more than verisimilitude from the included details. Writing at Beyond the Margins, Nichole Bernier examines how a writer’s choice of details informs the reader about a great deal more than the reality of a story:

But choosing which facts to include, and to emphasize, and in what order, is a kind of fiction unto itself, isn’t it? Journalists are crafting, shaping opinion with each word choice. Every time they describe their subjects’ brand of clothing or quote their poor grammar, verbatim, it builds the snap-judgement impression — particularly if that’s all you have on the person. The writer who is aware of the potency of a hot-button detail and includes it anyway — along with other discordant facts that may not support the expected, easy portrait — is doing two daring things: Putting it all on the table, and daring readers to challenge their own preconceived notions.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →