The Art of Description: An Epiphany of Understanding

Hubby helped a group of teens install a transmission tonight. While eating fried catfish. At Shaw’s Fish House in Necaise Crossing, Mississippi.

The transmission was in Pierce County, Washington State.

Listening to the phone exchange reinforced my conviction as to the necessity of thoroughly knowing your subject matter when you sit down to write. He was able to talk a bunch of newly budding, inexperienced mechanics through the entire process, with enough clean, concise detail for them to know to slant the tranny just so before stabbing it. To install the converter after stabbing the tranny (inserting the transmission tail to assemble the drive train), not before. How to slide that metal doughnut-shaped article (converter) down the spline and into the transmission housing, and turn it slowly to the right, all the while testing for the  ‘feel’ of a ‘click’, or the sensation of the unit dropping into an unseen slot. How it needed to be turned slightly more to the right, feeling for that second ‘click’ or ‘drop’ into an even deeper slot. He could even describe the exact amount of finger space that should be between the converter and the front pump of the transmission. He told them once in place, the converter should spin, but not wobble. If it wobbled it was installed improperly, and to pull it off the spline and begin again from scratch.

He described how the mounting bolts should be started with a particular wrench, then given only one turn before moving on to the next bolt. Only after they were all started should they be tightened completely, eliminating the risk of things shifting out of place. 

Yes, part of it was greek to me, too. But hubby’s precise description of each part, tool, fluid, space, tension or resistance was so detailed and just plain understandable, a bunch of boys 3,000 miles away were able to set their hands on different metal elements, piece them together and create a functioning unit. 

Writing should involve our readers in exactly the same way. He or she should feel, taste, hear, see and smell what our characters are experiencing. To the point it’s as if your reader is there with them, or can put themselves in our characters’ places. So from now on I’ll double-check my efforts by using the ‘transmission installation method’; or, did I put the individual pieces together well enough for my reader to drive my character, or plot, or setting away with them?

Sure hope they can.

Right now though, I’m wishing hubby wasn’t quite as adept with description as he is. Because now there is a group of hormone-engorged teenage boys with a long weekend at their disposal, running around in a Chevy S-10 pick-up truck with a suped-up 327 small block engine. 

So please chant with me.  Shiny side up; greasy side down. Keep all four wheels on safe, solid ground.

And if that’s not enough, pray they spent their entire allowance trying to impress some air-headed, bubblegum-popping girl and can’t afford gasoline.  Me? I’m going even further: I’m off to figure out how to bribe Guardian Angels into keeping my boys safe, whole and undamaged. Please, God; keep them — and the rest of the world — safe as they enjoy being young and adventurous. 

Here’s wishing everyone a safe and joyous Easter weekend. Dye eggs. Eat your fill of marshmallow Peeps. Fill baskets with jelly beans and chocolate bunnies. Dine, laugh and spend time with family. And in the midst of it all, please, take a moment to thank the Creator for His blessings in your own way.  



6 Responses

  1. As always your stories are wonderful, just like your writing.. HUGS… have a great day..

  2. Thanks, Goth!

    Now if I could only overcome my paranoia and overprotectiveness . . . Sigh.

  3. Great story to illustrate the importance of detail – which requires learning you subject matter thoroughly. Hmm , maybe better go do some research — especially for the love scenes! Cant know your material too well!!!

  4. LOL Go, Ro’mama!

    Somehow I can’t see DH complaining a bit over being used for research! He might even let you try a few things twice to ensure you have all the experience you need to make your scenes realistic and believable!

  5. Great story. Happy Easter all!!

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