Here’s something I do in my first drafts a lot, and always have to trim out in my revisions. I bet I’m not alone.
I often find myself writing out the mundane actions of how to sleep or get out of bed. Why? I don’t know. It’s not like my readers don’t know how to get out of bed. First you sit up, then you whine about the sunlight, then you swing your feet over the edge, then you whine more. . . . See?
So, unless it’s actually important to show the character getting out of bed (like, if she uses a wheelchair and this is the first time the reader sees her morning routine), then it’s probably something you can skip. Just “She got out of bed” and we move right on.
Here’s the deal: what we spend time on in prose has weight. The more time we spend describing how to get out of bed, the more important it becomes. Also, the more potentially confusing, what with all the tiny motions and trying to figure out how fast something is happening. . . . It gets complicated. More complicated than it needs to be.
That said, giving weight to something mundane can be useful if you do it the right way.
Let’s take INTERSTELLAR for example. (If you haven’t seen this movie, pause now for three hours and watch it. Thanks.)
Early in the movie, we see one of the rangers docking to the Endurance. This is a fairly mundane procedure in most SF movies. Things dock. No problem. In reality (and in the movie), it’s a hold-your-breath move because if it goes wrong, there will be consequences. The music is very tense. (The music in this movie is incredible.) We get to hear the characters talk about lining things up and they tell the guy in charge of that good job when it all goes well. Everyone visibly relaxes once it’s done.
There’s a lot of weight given to something that turns out to be a success. They lead you into thinking something will go wrong, but nope.
The point, though, is to show you the difficulty of docking. So that you know later, when everything has gone horribly, horribly wrong, what a feat it is to do it under good circumstances. And how impossible it is when things have just exploded. All the tension you recall from the first docking scene is dialed up to eleven because now something has exploded, the Endurance is spinning, and everything is falling toward the surface of the planet they were orbiting.
Suddenly, what was a typically uninteresting procedure in most science fiction films because a life-and-death situation. Yay! One wrong move will kill everyone. Yay!
So! You can lend weight and importance to otherwise insignificant acts, as long as you do it in a measured and careful way. But if it doesn’t deserve that kind of weight, don’t give it. Or you’ll just have to cut it later.
Do you have any examples of this kind of thing working really well?