Small Demons: The Devil’s in the Details

1 Dec

Part of any story’s power lies in how we relate with the who, the what, and the where. Characters come to life through their oddities: the whiskey they drink, the way they hold a certain brand of cigarette as they smoke, the places where they eat dinner, the people they interact with, and the brand of boots they wear as they trudge down the street. We, as readers, connect with that as we read, establishing bonds with characters and agreeing to follow them through page after page, book after book.

As writers, we obsess over the details. As readers, we relish them.

In a recent article on Publishing Perspectives, Valla Vikili wrote it was through his connection with and passion for the details in Jean-Claude Izzo’s Total Chaos that he developed the idea for Small Demons. Small Demons is an interactive database brimming with the devilish details that make up all your favorite books (and then some, once the site is fully launched).

There are almost too many ways to use Small Demons. As an example, I’ll take The Help by Kathryn Stockett, admittedly the only one of the test books available that I’ve read so far. If I click on the title, I see all the people (like Medgar Evers), the places (like Memphis, Tennessee), the music (like Patsy Cline), the movies (like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), the TV shows (like Guiding Light), the books (like Invisible Man), the vehicles (like the Oldsmobile), and other gadgets and things (like the Victrola and the brand of cigarettes Skeeter smoked).

I should also mention, these are not mere endless lists of data. Everything is represented graphically. For instance, the “Places Mentioned in the Book” section shows not only a map with the locations but also a running list below. This helps users visualize where everything takes place (perfect if, say, you want to follow a character’s journey from one location to another).

There are other ways to use this database, though, besides searching through titles. Let’s take the Victrola as an example. I click on the image and am taken to a separate page with all of the books that mention the Victrola: Dark Voyage by Alan Furst, Night Soldiers by Alan Furst, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and The Big Blowdown by George Pelecanos.

Once the site is fully up and running, you’ll also be able to search by subject, decade, award winners, and best sellers, as well as by people, places, and things. Small Demons is also working to link “every song, movie, book and a wide range of other products to iTunes, Amazon, B&N, Netflix and other major retailers” in order to satisfy your need to access the details now. You will also be able to help develop the content and curate subjects, as well as see what your friends are reading.

I’m excited about this website, and that’s just after tinkering with the beta version. Once it’s fully up and running, I may become completely addicted. The interface is clean, simple, and easy to use. I recommend requesting an invitation, which they send out once a day. For the latest information on this project, check out their blog.

Interesting side note: The name “Small Demons” does not come from the phrase “The devil’s in the details.” Check their Facebook page to find the inspiration behind the name.


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