For Creative Writers Everywhere…

Attention to Detail


Besides the road signs, I always know I’ve crossed the border into South Australia when I see the power poles. They are different from the ones here in Victoria which are mostly made of wood or cement.

It’s sometimes the little details that can give a story credibility. A few years ago, I attended a writing group where we read the winning short story in a major competition. Several of us had entered (along with hundreds of others) and we were all curious. Sadly we were disappointed and a couple of people even commented that the judges must have picked the winner out of a hat rather than by reading them. As well as a few other anomalies, we all felt the story lost credibility when the main characters drove down a major highway and saw signs displaying the speed limit as 110kms per hour, as the story was set in the past, well before Australia changed to the metric system!

Around the same time I also read a story in an Australian Women’s magazine with the main character visiting a farm in the Australian countryside where the sheep were all wintered in barns. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happen on large Australian farms in NSW (where it was set) and wasn’t surprised to see the story repeated in an English magazine a couple of months later with place names changed to English towns. The writer was well known and frequently published in Women’s magazines in Australia and overseas. As writers we’d all love to sell our stories to more than one publication but as readers we feel cheated when those details aren’t picked up by the editors.

While Positive Words isn’t on the same scale as those magazines, it is a great starting point for new writers and perfect for honing your craft. Check the little details. Make sure the car your character is driving is right for the year the story is set in. Don’t have them visiting McDonalds before the fast food giant arrived in Australia. And, be careful with names. Although ‘old names’ come back, names often come in cycles or fashions and need to be appropriate for the age of the character. For example, there aren’t a lot of Sandras, Diannes, Debbies etc in recent times but lots in my generation.

Check those little details and it will make a BIG difference to your submissions and competition entries 🙂


Comments on: "Attention to Detail" (2)

  1. Great comments, Sandra. I have also been disappointed in the inaccuracies in prize winning stories, especially when I live, or have lived, in the place where the story has been set.

  2. You’re spot on here, Lancer…and I DO think that ‘author’ is shameful to simply change the names of towns/country just to ‘make a buck’!

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