• Kendra Bonnett
  • Writing Video #4: Pay Attention to Detail Like Anne Lamott
Writing Video #4: Pay Attention to Detail Like Anne Lamott
Written by
Kendra Bonnett
June 2012
Written by
Kendra Bonnett
June 2012

Kendra Bonnett, She Writes Guest Editor and Co-Founder of Women's Memoirs

My business partner and co-author Matilda Butler and I have the great good fortune to work with many dedicated students in our writing classes. They not only have good basic writing skills but they take pleasure in writing. And that's a good thing because writing is work...

...unless it's something you love. We call it a labor of love, but it's not really a labor. It's just something into which you willingly put a lot of yourself.

One thing, however, that we see in some of our hard-working students is a tendency to construct elaborate metaphors. I've written about this problem before. And it really is a pet peeve with me because good descriptive detail can be such a simple thing.

Let me direct you to a short video I made about Anne Lamott and her advice to start small and write with detail.

Maybe you've noticed by now that I like movies and often make film references. Whenever I think about flowery metaphors that do more to obfuscate the detail, I'm reminded of Rosalind Russell's Auntie Mame when Mame questions all the symbolism ghostwriter Brian O'Bannion adds to her memoir. She reads an example:
"Like an echo from the caves of Coccamaura, I came forth whilst Deirdre wept cool tears."

Mame continues: "Wouldn't it be simpler to say, 'On the day I was born, it rained in Buffalo?'"

Mame got it right. Use your detail. Gather all you can. Take notes. Examine it carefully. Select the best and write clear, honest, true descriptive detail. And click through to Women's Memoirs for several ideas that will help you dig for details. And read my rant against "shitty" (Lamott's words, not mine) first drafts.

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  • Kendra Bonnett

    Hi Daphne, Thanks so glad you're finding the value. Makes me want to do more! :)

  • Daphne Q

    Gosh... I love all this columns with writing tips. I always pick up at least one thing that is helpful.