Last week, I talked about too many details overwhelming your reader. This week, I have to tell you about a television show that uses details bee-you-tee-fully.
It’s called Life on Mars. That link goes to the Wikipedia article, but tl;dr, it’s about a cop in 2008 who’s hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. He’s still a cop, but coppiness was so different in 1973, he says it’s like being on another planet.
He thinks he might be insane or hallucinating or in some other way bringing all this out of his own mind. He decides to just go along and do his job and live his life until his mind can’t keep up because, he says, “There are only so many details.”
And this show is, indeed, rich in details. Wonderful details. 1973 is recreated so minutely, I have trouble remembering the show was filmed in 2008. I’m like, “Wow, Harvey Keitel looked so old in 1973 — I can’t believe it. …Oh, yeah, this was 2008.” Or, “That actress in this show looks just like that actress in Life On Mars, but she doesn’t look that much older. …Oh, yeah, that was 2008, not 1973.”
Thing is, almost all the details are just there. The guy doesn’t make a point of remarking on clothes or hair or music. A few things are brought into the foreground, especially in the first episode: The skyline of NYC including the Twin Towers, the guy’s ostentatiously 1973 car, the just-barely-in-the-force female officer. Any detail that’s important is given all due weight — and not an ounce more. It’s impressively done.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write a scene where your character thinks their mind is playing tricks on them.