THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS #4–CONAGHER AND CINDERELLA by CHERYL PIERSON

Have you ever read a story that made you wonder why the author spent such a long, boring time describing an item or place that seemed of little importance to the story?

Usually when that happens, it’s because its importance will be revealed later on, or some scene will call up that particular memory or description for some reason—and its usually a pretty darn good reason!

Let’s look at Cinderella’s slipper as our first example for this. Of course, a glass slipper would be highly unusual, wouldn’t it? In fact, most likely, there would be no other slippers like that one pair!

This particular pair of shoes serves as a symbol for the entire story—improbable things happening to a young woman who has been treated so terribly for so long that lead to her ultimate happiness—it’s a story we can all relate to!

The magic that brings her happiness is not just going to the ball and all the wonderful things that happened on the way—the beautiful gown, the carriage, and so on—the true magic for Cinderella is falling in love. And how can the two lovers hope to be reunited? Well, if it weren’t for those exquisitely, perfectly-fitting glass slippers, everything else that came before—all the magic, hopes, and dreams—could have amounted to nothing at all. Everything hinges on the glass slipper fitting!

Hence the description of the slippers themselves, carrying the slipper on a pillow (which I always believed was taking a terrible chance!) and the endless search and trying on of the slipper throughout the kingdom.

The slipper is all-important because it is the proof that she is “the one” –and it has come to symbolize the very story itself. When we see a picture of the glass slipper, we know it “means” Cinderella, right?

Think about Lous L’Amour’s iconic western, Conagher. Two lonely people meet and fall in love through heartfelt notes that Evie, the heroine, writes and ties to tumbleweeds. They could be found and read by anyone—or no one at all.

http://g.tinyurl.com/y6y8yj33

 

But the fact that Conagher feels they speak directly to him, shows us how important what she did is to the story. This is further borne out when, in conversation with him, she uses a phrase she’s written on one of the notes—and he knows immediately it is she who has been writing them.

 

Loneliness and the vast emptiness of the land is a common theme throughout the book. It was unimaginable to her that Conagher would be the one who found “that note” – the one she repeated the phrase from in conversation with him—but it wasn’t impossible. And his line to her is one of the most romantic of all time, in my opinion.

 

He takes one of the notes out of his pocket and asks if she wrote it, and she says yes, she did. She tells him she was just so lonely she had to talk to someone, even if no one was there to hear. He says, “There was, Evie, there was me.” 

 

The details of:

  • The land around them and their feelings about the emptiness and aloneness of where they are…
  • Evie’s acting on those feelings by just writing them down on paper and tying them to tumbleweeds…
  • The act of Evie repeating the phrase in conversation she’d used on the note Conagher found…

all add up to make this story so special and memorable—and one you will not want to put down once you start reading!

Conagher isn’t a fairy tale, but it does have its own brand of magical connections that lead to love. The details and descriptions in both of these stories, as different as they are, give the reader insights that the author, in both cases, was masterful in providing throughout the story!

 

Finally, another couple of tales that come to mind are two short stories many of us read in our high school English classes—The Necklace, by Guy De Maupassant, and The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry. Do you remember these—both based on objects that were described in great detail—and the twists at the end that left you gasping in surprise?

 

If you haven’t read them, or even if it’s been a while, they are always good to revisit and are classic examples of why detailed descriptions of “things” can be so important to a story’s premise.

Can you think of an example in your reading where the detailed description of something had deep importance to the story?

 

Cheryl Pierson
A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 37 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cheryl.pierson.92
http://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules

24 Comments

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  1. Good morning Cherky. What a great blog, thank you for sharing. I have notice that sometimes an author spends time on detailing something very boring, then to find out that it’s imprtsnce is revealed later. So I try not to judge those small details about something, until I finish the book. Have a great week!

    1. Oops I guess I should check my spelling before I post. Sorry for my mistakes. Too early. Have a great day Cheryl

      1. LOL It’s MONDAY! LOL! XOXO

    2. Hi Tonya! Yes! I feel the same way. Since I wrote this blog I’ve thought of so many other great examples. LOL Can’t talk about all of them, but there are MANY out there. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. Avatar

    Beautiful. I will never grump when an author spends , what I think is , too much time setting a scene again.

    1. Hi Rosemary,
      It’s really easy to get impatient as we read since we don’t know what’s coming next or what significance those objects might have later on in the story. I do try to just read the story as a “discovery”–which is really exactly what it is–and see what the author has in store for us on down the line. Thanks so much for stopping by today!

  3. I have found that the very good authors know how to maximize this aspect and now look for the significance later on. New authors, unless very talented, will just fill space with all the minutia. I am not fond of fillers without a purpose.
    Thank you for the insight of your blog.

    1. Jerri, I agree! And oh, how I love those “aha” moments when you realize how something has been brought to your attention for a purpose that you didn’t realize until much later! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. Welcome today. This is a great post. And a great reminder to just read what seems to be over explaining about something or someone in a book. No I have never read those two books. Will have to check them out.

    1. Thank you, Lori! So glad you enjoyed it. You know, “back in the day” when we read those two stories in high school, (The Necklace and The Gift of the Magi) I remember thinking when “all was revealed” –OH MY GOSH! Some of those older stories that are classics are meant to be read over and over–you always miss “something” at different points in your life, I think. I think I’m going to pull those out and dust them off and re-read them yet again very soon! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. Cheryl, you make some interesting and very valid points. I never tire of Cinderella. Such a beautiful tale. And I love Conagher. In fact, I wrote a similar short story called The Telegraph Tree after listening to a lecture at West Texas A&M about the loneliness of women on the frontier and the crazy number of suicides. The speaker was excellent and he set the wheels in my brain spinning.

    Love you, Filly sister!

    1. Linda, I love the Cinderella story too. This was my earliest recollection of “suspending disbelief” but for a very different reason. I could not understand HOW the prince would not instantly recognize Cinderella as the woman he was in love with! Even without her ballgown on, she still had the same face! LOL (The things that present problems to preschoolers…) LOL I love Conagher, too. There is sooo much in that book in so many ways. I can imagine losing my mind on the prairie–being so lonely and just “out there” in the midst of it all with no one else would be so very, very hard.

      Thanks so much for commenting, Linda! I know you’re busy! Love you, too–we will catch up soon! XOXO

  6. Even better than that glass slipper were those notes tied to tumbleweed In Conagher. Louis L’Amour certainly found an exquisitely unique detail when he came up with the notes in tumbleweed.
    You know how in a movie the camera focuses on a book or a stone or whatever that becomes a significant detail later in the story, but we know it must be important even when we don’t know why yet. I see that kind of detail appear in a story the same way and I do know it means pay attention because something’s going to happen involving this little detail later. What would a Sherlock Holmes story be without this hints along the way
    You know, I actually wrote in a little detail like this in a story…a sign on a dress shop door that read, “No men allowed.” It may have seemed insignificant to the reader there in the beginning, but it all comes together later in the story. Probably we’ve all done that in a story.
    This was such a good article, Cheryl. Not only will I pay more attention to these details in books that I read, but I’ll think more about how I may want to use them in my own work.

    1. Hi Sarah! Oh, yes…those notes–that was pure genius!

      Talking about movies–the one that really comes to mind, and that I had to go back and rewatch again was The Sixth Sense– (FROM WIKIPEDIA)–“The color red is intentionally absent from most of the film, but it is used prominently in a few isolated shots for “anything in the real world that has been tainted by the other world”[4] and “to connote really explosively emotional moments and situations”

      Yes, Sherlock Holmes had to have his clues–and they had to be minor to the first look, but then have such deeper meaning after the mystery began to unfold.

      Sarah, thanks so much for stopping by today! I always love to hear from you!

  7. Great post. I read that the slipper was originally fur, and that the words for glass and fur were confused when translating the story from the French. A fur slipped does sound a lot more comfortable than a glass one.

    1. Oh, my goodness, I had no idea! That is really amazing to know–cause, well, wouldn’t fur be more likely to fit more people? LOL I love language and the nuances and changes that occur in it–sooo interesting! Thanks for this tidbit! So glad you stopped by!

  8. I do remember those stories–The Necklace and The Gift of the Magi.

    I love reading those things which will pop up in a book later and give you the aha! Now I know moment of its significance.

    1. Yes, I do, too, Denise! And I especially love it when you aren’t hit over the head with it, but it just comes to you–that significance is finally revealed and understood, and sometimes it’s just breathtaking, isn’t it? Thanks for commenting!

  9. Great post, Cheryl!

    1. Thanks, Caryl! So glad you stopped by and that you enjoyed it!

  10. I love those aha moments when I connect the dots. I love foreshadowing and it’s so important to do this so when “the” moment arrives, the readers is gobsmacked instead of feeling the writer manipulated an act of God that does not suspend disbelief. I’ve not read either short story, but have watched Conagher many times. The note(s) tied to a tumbleweed is pure genius. I love when an insignificant detail gains significance later in the story. In my third book one of my characters leaves a clue that seems unnecessary in the scene, but (hopefully) sends a wallop in a later scene. It’s such fun having fun with my characters. I’ve loved reading this series and look forward to more from you, Cheryl. You’re a great editor.

    1. Elizabeth, I think you would definitely enjoy BOTH of those stories–and they’re short, so won’t take long. They are well worth the read, more than once! I’m so glad you stopped by and that you are enjoying the series, and now you are making me blush. LOL Thanks so much for the kind words, my friend! XOXO

  11. I have never read Conagher! Now I am off to find it. Great post!

    1. Joy, Conagher has SO MUCH packed in one book–it’s amazing when you really study it. I used it every time I taught creative writing classes because there is so much in that one book. You will enjoy it. The movie was good, but the book was better.

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