I went to see “Phantom of the Opera” recently. I hadn’t seen it in many years because it’s really not high on my list of favorites (not a fan of the operatic style), but it was part of our season ticket package so I was looking forward to revisiting it. Frankly, I look forward to every show because there’s always something spectacular happening on stage.
And Phantom was no exception. Gorgeous stagecraft. Goosebump inducing orchestration. Overwhelming special effects. And costumes. Oh, the costumes.
The setting for Phantom is the Paris Opera House in the late 1800s so you have the regular period costumes as well as the costumes for the operas-within-the-opera. What made my theatre experience more interesting was the display of costumes from the show they had set up in the lobby.
As I walked toward the display I saw one of the Phantom’s capes, and three beautiful dresses.
But then I looked closer.
And then closer still.
By focusing closer on each garment, I was able to see details hidden to me before, each one serving a purpose, each one servicing the whole of the garment as well as the entire production. Care was taken on those sequins, each one catching different lights and angles on stage. They certainly could have used fewer — less detail, less care — and perhaps nobody would have been the wiser. But by layering detail upon detail, texture upon texture, all the pieces added up to an exquisite whole.
It’s the same thing I try to do with my writing. I start with my barebones plot, my plain cotton garment, if you will.
Then I stitch on a few ruffles of setting, some beaded metaphors, a sprinkle of telling details so each character and paragraph sparkles. I trim off excess story fabric, nipping and tucking until nothing droops or drags. I snip loose threads or weave them in better.
I want readers to see my books like I saw those costumes in the theatre lobby. Something captivating that when examined, reveals layers and layers of texture adding up to an exquisite whole.
As a reader, do you notice the layers of texture? As a writer who reads, can you overlook the layers and lose yourself in the exquisite whole?