Any writer who wants their prose to sparkle needs to bring details to the picture. A favorite article from my files points out that seeing without judging, objectivity, is just the sort of thing you can refine and practice from working in journalism.

I started in journalism. I’ve written nonfiction for more than 35 years, beginning with small town papers. I learned to stay detached from judging while I was telling a story’s details. Journalism just observes. The practice helped me see to picture things and places clearly. That favorite article comes from my deep files, a 29-year-old issue of the The Writer. Russell Working, the youngest winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award, was once a reporter on a daily paper.

Storytelling demands detail. The image, not the idea, is supreme. Great writers have the ability to focus their powers of observation, and to describe the images that contribute symbolically or aesthetically to the whole of their work.

Working goes on to cite details in Hemingway’s classic story A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. Hemingway cut his teeth on journalism. Working’s article praises this practice of detachment.

Such writing requires a kind of objectivity, an ability to detach yourself from your subject and simply observe. Writers are sometimes content to slog about in abstractions on character, rather than offering telling detail.

Working has published plenty of nonfiction, but he’s crafting short stories. Check out the beginning of his story “The Irish Martyr”. It’s part of his collection that won the Richard Sullivan Prize for Short Fiction.