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.

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