Make a Splash in Your Story With These “Little” Things

by | Writing | 8 comments

“If you can take a little slice of the world and a little piece of dirt and really focus on details, you can drive large, seemingly spectacular movements.” —David Baldacci (Writer’s Digest November/December 2015)

image by inspired images

image by inspired images

Note the quote from David Baldacci above. It’s from his interview, “Absolute Writer,” by Jessica Strawser.

Baldacci’s quote from the interview says I can do four things:

  • “take a little slice of the world and ”
  • “a little piece of dirt and”
  • “really focus on details”
  • and “drive … spectacular movements”

I think this could work on novels, scenes, or short stories.

As an exploratory example, I’ll apply Baldacci’s advice, as I perceive it, to the short story, I’m working on, a Christmas romance.

My slice of the world is the road to marriage. I see these subparts:

  1. the dreams of the perfect love,
  2. the cute-meet (movie term),
  3. the getting-to-know-you,
  4. the wariness of less than perfect,
  5. the acceptance of less than perfect,
  6. the embracing of less than perfect,
  7. the desire to become one, and
  8. the commitment to the union.
image by zulubo

image by zulubo

My story needs to be a “little slice.” So my slice will cover the hero and heroine’s amusing meeting to their realization they prefer the less perfect person more than the perfect one of their dreams (subparts 2-5).


My “little piece of dirt” is:

  • A neighborhood,
  • where movement is limited by a dumping of snow,
  • where most scenes happen in the hero’s and the heroine’s houses,
  • where only three other characters make brief appearances (two by phone) to move the story along.


image by srose

image by srose

Keeping their story in the neighborhood and limiting the number of characters, allows me to concentrate on the play between the hero and heroine.





The details I’ll “really focus on” are in:

  • hitting home the theme,
  • creating believable and unique characters, and
  • writing unpredictable plot points.

Baldacci says that while we’re showing the details, we need to trick, distract, and deflect the reader’s attention to keep the story unpredictable and to move the action forward. This will be my challenge.

Driving my “spectacular movements.”

  • I interpret that as: at the end, the reader needs to feel like cheering and/or changing.

Focus on details & limit world, setting, characters to write an amazing story. Click to tweet.

How have you used the idea, “little,” to make a splash in your story?

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  1. pamelasthibodeaux


    Examples from my work I can think of right off… (Tempered Hearts)
    Little Piece of Dirt: 50,000 acre ranch in Bandera Tx
    Details to Focus on: The personality differences between H/H and how they overcome those
    Spectacular Moments: Those moments of intense emotion that drive the character and hopefully reader to reevaluate their belief system, attitude and/or goals.

    Thanks Zoe for making me think along these lines!
    Have a great day.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Thanks, Pam, for “playing.” A ranch sounds like a perfect little piece of dirt. I can picture plenty of places to have action. The bunk house, the big house, and anywhere outside.

  2. marilyn leach

    Thanks for sharing this, Zoey. It’s a great guiding format. Cheers

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Yes, Marilyn, the format made me think about and make changes to my short story.

  3. Peggy Rychwa

    Thought-provoking. Thanks.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Thanks, Peggy. Made be rethink my focus.

  4. Jane Foard Thompson

    Love that goal at the end — cheering or changing. That really distills what I write to create, and will help me stay on track.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      I hope my readers will cheer a lot and at least change a little.

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