1. 5305437093421
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    5305437093421 New Member

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    Descriptiveness

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by 5305437093421, Feb 28, 2012.

    I am reading about how much description is necessary for the story as well as to make sure I don't over or under describe scenes. One quote I found from Chekhov that is interesting can be seen below. It essentially says to minimise details in descriptions and let the reader imagine the scene for him/herself.
    What I don't understand is that when I read some of his works, he describes scenes down to the last detail. Here is some of the beginning of Small Fry (of course it varies a bit depending on the source from translation):

    Is he actually keeping his descriptions to a minimum, despite the attention to detail, anyway, considering the ones he gives also tells of other details? As in, the kerosene stinking of burning because it's a closed-off room and relatively dark? In that case, the lines of description are precision strikes designed to have larger effects.
     
  2. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is always a happy medium between clarity and descriptiveness. I think what Chekhov was referring to was superfluous addition of adjectives and modifiers. Not to the fact that all sentences must be short and minimalistic.

    If you look at his writing (second quote), he is describing various actions, we follow his eyes and ears as they meander around the room, from these few lines we are learning a lot and yet the sentences are easy to follow. His first example though is heavy with unnecessary description and difficult to comprehend on the first read.

    All this is a very specific skill which differentiates a good writer from a not-so-good one. It can't be precisely taught, no rules are definite, it is up to your own best judgement to strike a good balance between the two, which will work best for each scene in your story. I think most writers, even more experienced ones, are struggling with this issue and find themselves trimming their sentences in revision all the time.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think there's a difference between describing every detail so the reader sees things exactly the way the author does, and using description to set a specific mood or put the reader into the mindset of the character. In the first, the descriptions demand we see the character in a specific way (why?) - plus it's just terribly written (meandering and repetitive, among other things). In the second, we know exactly how the character is feeling by the time we get to that last sentence - and we agree with him.

    Personally, if I find myself skimming just to get past things, there's too much unnecessary (and badly done) description. If I find myself drawn into the scene - they've got it right.
     

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