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October 15th, 2007

Down with minutiae!

I've noticed a trend in the last few horror novels I've read (and, to a lesser extent, a few of the short stories), and it's not a trend that makes me happy: Authors describing everyday situations in excruciating detail. It's no longer enough to just say, "Sally drove to the bookstore." Now we must know that Sally had to dig in her purse to find her keys, that she saw one of the tires needed air, that she could still smell yesterday's pizza in the car, what song was playing on the radio, what the car told her the outside temperature was, how she realized she'd missed some spots brushing her teeth earlier, how she suddenly remembered today was Aunt Mamie's birthday and she'd forgotten to send a card, and several more paragraphs of banal minutiae.

Does this drive anyone else nuts, or is just me? Do all other readers cherish this sort of pseudo-Proustian over-attention to detail?

I know I'm occasionally guilty of going too far in the other direction; I, for example, might just start with, "After Sally got to the bookstore...". So I'm predisposed against this sort of intricate detail, but still...I just don't see the need for it, unless it's in service of setting up a dread-building pace or will have some other payoff.

And it seems like a new-ish thing to me. Is it a result of publishers requiring these 90,000 word lengths? Is it the influence of Stephen King, and his suburban-obsessed style? Is it because the authors are choosing small detail over more complicated stories for fear that their ADD-suffering readers won't be able to follow the thread of a subplot?

Whatever it is, I wish it would stop.