My dictionary includes this among the list of definitions for fringe: “a part considered to be peripheral, extreme, or minor in relation to the main part.”
By that definition, no element in our books should
be fringe: everything in the book should be there for a reason,
contributing to the story. But in life, we’re surrounded by details that
don’t really have an impact on our lives, by random events whose
beginnings or endings we never know, by noise that we have to filter
out. And so, when we read, we often overlook the importance of little
is where writers can have a lot of fun. Mystery writers are famous for
strewing the real clues around in the background, where they are easy to
miss but a pleasure for astute readers to spot. I remember how proud I
was that I figured out the guilty party in Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder
before the detective told me who it was! I had learned how to pay
attention to clues that seemed fringe but were really central.
The books Holes and When You Reach Me
were enormously satisfying in the way they managed to weave a great
number of seemingly unconnected happenings into coherent wholes. We saw
one thread, then another, then a glimpse of a pattern, and when we
stepped back we could see how every thread fit into a complete tapestry.
I’ve never managed to scatter puzzle pieces so widely before
fitting them together at a story’s conclusion, but I did include some
hints early in Try Not to Breathe about a couple of secrets that are revealed at the end.
details make rereading a pleasure. When we know how the story turns
out, certain little items that were mentioned casually jump out at us
now. We see their significance and realize how they subtly influenced us
the first time around, building a world in which even a surprising
conclusion seemed right and inevitable.
So pay attention to those fringe details ... because you never know!
*New World Dictionary, Second College Edition