Definition of Detail and Development

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Select a descriptive passag and remove all of its descriptive detail. Photocopy and make a transparency of the original and the revised passages. One instructor used a passage from detective novel that describes an investigator arriving at a crime scene -- and without supporting detail, it's bland rather than grisly. I used a passage from Michael Chabon's Mysteries of Pittsburgh, that reveals a great deal about a character unless the description is removed. A pulp romance would work well too.

Have students decide where they think detail should be added, and have them rewrite the passage. When they're finished, ask volunteers to read, or collect and randomly read a few passages. Discuss to see where people generally agreed detail was needed, and what was lost to the meaning and effectiveness of the passage without the detail. Then pass out copies of the original passage to show them what it really looked like. Discuss the differences, and impress upon them that this is exactly why detail will be so important in their essays.