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Authentic Details: What They are and How to Find Them

Recently I had the pleasure of helping my friend, a fitness pro, carry out annual health assessments on firefighters employed by the county fire department.

A number of the firefighters wore black wedding rings. I found that strange, but assumed the men, who were younger, had chosen different, more trendy materials such as wood or unusual metals. That and I have a friend who has a metal ring with sensors that collects health data like his heart rate.

I finally asked a firefighter what material his ring was made of, and he plucked the stretchy material away from his skin and let it go with a RubberBand-like snap.

“It’s silicon,” he said, referring to the material that’s a hybrid between synthetic rubber and plastic.

Silicon wedding rings (7 for $15!)

The man said he knew a fellow firefighter who, during a fire, caught his metal wedding ring on something — a hook, a piece of jagged metal, etc. — and the metal scraped the skin off of the man’s finger, a phenomenon called degloving.

A good reason to use a silicon ring that can easily break if snagged!

When taken in the context of writing, the silicon ring is a perfect example of an authentic detail:

  1. a small fact most people don’t know

  2. that’s particular to a specific group or region

  3. and that convinces readers you, the author, know your subject well

The most fun way to find authentic details is through on-site research, such as watching someone make candles according to 1800s means. Watching a process or hearing accents or viewing games live can provide an endless amount of sensory details — sayings, colors, smells, etc. — you can use in your writing.

What examples of authentic details will you provide to readers for the story you’re writing?

Happy writing!

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