25. A Universal Truth
The paradoxical truism of writing is that the more specific you are to your own, or your characters’, experience, the more universal your writing will be. Trying to be “universal” is usually ruinous. It mires you in generalities, ponderousness, pedantry—in short, effort.
This isn’t to say you should never step back and reflect, draw conclusions, make sense of things. Of course you should. But given a choice between the way your best friend put her hand on the back of your neck sophomore year of college—the physical feeling and the sudden wattage change in that hideous ceiling lamp full of dead flies—and a statement about how everything you think you know can change in a moment (because anyone can relate to that, right?), go with the hand, the neck, and the lamp.*
Whether recognizing something they’ve experienced or being taken somewhere they’ve never been, readers will feel welcomed into your story and find a point of connection the more detailed you are about your very particular, one-of-a-kind world.
*Some will pick up that this sounds a lot like “show, don’t tell.” I’m not going to argue—and will have more to say on that at another time.
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