Is less always more?

by D. C.
(Utah)

Question: Long time no see. After asking you lots of questions and trying to follow your eight step plot outline, I have decided to start writing. I want to thank you for all the help you've given me.


But I have...another question.

How much detail and description is too much?
When I was in school, one of my English teachers read a brief story of mine. She sent it back, saying I needed more details. "I want to see the world you see inside your head," she said.
So, ever since then, I've made an effort to paint a vivid picture in my reader's head. I can see everything that happens in my story to my character - down to every hand movement. So I describe it.
But later I heard that too much description is juvenile. I don't want to appear inexperienced even though I am. I am a firm believer in that even though some things are talent, anyone can learn any skill to a certain degree.
I'm wondering if you can help me find that happy medium between giving your reader enough detail and given them too much.

Thanks :)

Answer: Sometimes less is more, and sometimes it is not enough.

Sometimes description slows down the pace of a story so that it becomes dull. Other times, readers love the details of your story world.

I suggest you get some of your favourite books in the genre you are writing in and look closely at how much detail the authors include - and when they include it. Try copying out a chapter from one or two of them to get a feel for their style. (Seriously.)

The challenge is to use specific details, because specificity is powerful, but just the right number enough to paint a clear, rich picture. Choose the details that are important to convey the story and leave out the rest.

Also, don't worry too much about what other people say about writing, especially if they are just giving general guidelines. Write for yourself first. Then show your work to others you respect and see whether it excites them or moves them emotionally.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.


 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook


NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles


"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards



"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero