Well, the One Ring may be small, but it’s of a magnitude of importance. In that way, the Ring is not at all small: that’s just one way of looking at it. Of course, does it really matter that the ring could be fit inside a cereal box? No, not exactly. What matters is its power and signifigance.
However, that is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about small things–truly insignificant, small things–that are important. You realize that your life is made up of some large years, some smaller months, even smaller weeks, short days, hours, minutes, and then seconds.
Whoever said that the “little things don’t matter” didn’t consider the fact that your life is made up of a multitude of these small, seemingly insignificant rocks, giant skyscrapers are constructed from tiny globules and particles of cement, and that our vast universe is made up of the smallest thing known to man–the atom. (Okay, the PLP is the smallest, I only said that for effect)
Take your book, for instance: You spent hundreds of thousands of seconds, hundreds of thousands of letters, all on a computer that is manufactured one in a million, to create something great. Your characters, plot, and setting are the culmination of literally millions of different things, all brought to a head.
It is on that last note that I want to stress. What are your characters without their little quirks and pleasures, rages and habits? Their various tendencies to do this or that when waiting in a line, A little tic they do when they’re nervous, or even sleeping habits. What is a character with all those little things that make them unique?
Of course, we can be callous and deaf to these little tendencies begging to be known quite easily. So many little things are lost when focusing on the big, most important things. Undoubtedly, the little things are less important than the big ones, but far be it from me to say that they don’t matter.
So, I’m going to give you a few tips on how to express all the little things about your story’s setting, characters, and plot. Remember, the more nuances, small or great, that you can make about your story, the better and more real it will be.
First, look out for things that “just” occur to you, seemingly randomly. Take every idea that comes into your head seriously (“Should I add that the lightbulb is hanging from a cord from the streetlamp?”) and consider putting it in. Think: would I notice this if I were a part of this story?
Second, if a description about a person, place, or action seems a little too bland, put something random in (like, the grandfather’s eyes dart back and forth nervously, as if he was being confronted). Just something that is small enough not to matter that much, but big enough to be noticed.
Lastly, anything you can put in that would be characteristic of the person, plot, place etc., would enrich the story to put in. It doesn’t matter if the comment is large or small, if would add to the gloom of an appropriately gloomy scene, it would be good to put it in. This goes for anything in writing: if it makes the story better, large or small, put it in.
Good luck, and happy writing!