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[process] On greebles and telling details - Lakeshore — LiveJournal
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Jay Lake
Date: 2009-01-30 05:38
Subject: [process] On greebles and telling details
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Tags:process, writing
James Gurney talks about greebles on his blog. He defines greebles as "small details used to break up a large form, usually to give a sense of scale or to make an invented object more believable."

We have greebles in fiction, too. These are superficially similar to "telling details", but in fact serve almost an inverse function.

A telling detail is a small but very significant element that unpacks fractally into information and assumptions about a character, setting and/or plot. For example, in William Gibson's Neuromancer the reader realizes that Molly's mirrorshades are surgically implanted, and begins to sense the manifold implications of a technology and a culture where that's a reasonable choice.

Greebles are the sorts of things that make a piece of fiction crunchy, textured and interesting, serving as a sort of matte painting behind the foreground action. Vide Gibson, the nearly obsessive use of consumer branding, both realworld and fictional, in Neuromancer. They lend dimensionality to a text, provide incidental verisimilitude, and can both engage and distance us depending on auctorial choice and reader experience, but they aren't directly engaged in advancing the story.

I keep learning about writing fiction from reading art blogs, but I think Gurney Journey is my favorite.

And as always in these matters, your mileage may vary.

Originally published at jlake.com.

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User: jackwilliambell
Date: 2009-01-30 15:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Nice little explanation. I will try to remember, and use, the word 'greeble' in the future for this sort of thing.

Funny, I recently wrote about way of doing SF greebles by reworking the fantastic until it seems mundane.
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User: desperance
Date: 2009-01-30 16:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Pace Gibson

I do not think this word means what you think it means.

"pace: with or by the leave of (expressing disagreement courteously)" [Chambers Dictionary]

Unless usage is different in the States, of course? I don't get the impression above that you mean to disagree with Gibson. Did you mean vide, perhaps ["see, consult, refer to"]?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-01-30 17:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Indeed I did, as in "with respect to". Garsh, vocabulary error! I've been using it that way all my life, and no one's ever noticed...
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User: desperance
Date: 2009-01-30 17:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hee. I have the soul of a copy-editor, and I flourish it even in real life. But it's the easiest thing in the world, to pick up the wrong usage and run with it when it's vocab from another language altogether and nobody ever actually translates it...
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