Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Discoveries/The Checklist Manifesto

A colleague recommended this book to me last week and I found its premise intriguing: the discipline of a checklist can have a profoundly liberating effect on one's work. It is less about ticking off accomplishments on a to-do list and more about the systematic steps--the seemingly unimportant details--that together add up to a job well done.

So often we think we can skip a step, skim over a minor point. But in life, as in writing, those details matter! I'm presenting a new (for me) workshop this Saturday at the conference of the New England Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. It's about the process of developing engaging characters through the "telling detail"--particulars that inform and shape the approach they take to the world, the choices they make and the consequences they must deal with.

I attended a meeting today with OR nurses and medical researchers. Before any of them spoke I was acutely aware of how they presented themselves--the choices they had made in interpreting the "business casual" suggestion for dress or in selecting items from the breakfast buffet, the style of their cell phones or purses, the length of their hair. Such observations become a rich library from which to pull the details that are the building blocks of a character.

What choices did you observe today?

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