1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Detail or not

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rumwriter, Jul 19, 2011.

    So, of course there's no rule for why some sentences are so wonderful and others or dull or boring. But I had a notion based on detail.

    I used to try to paint a very vivid picture for my reader, and felt like the more detail I would add the more they could feel a part of the story. Now I'm starting to feel differently. I am starting to think that it is better to give them a general idea, and let their imagination do the rest. Otherwise you are confining them to something very specific that they have to envision, but it is much more fun as a reader to create your own world based on the guidlines given. It also allows your reader to draw forth their own experiences more and use their imagination, making for a more fun read.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think you can really generalize in this way. I've read authors who write excellent stories doing precisely what you suggest (i.e. giving a general idea), and I've read some others who are so good with language that their highly detailed descriptions are wonderful to read and provide a rich and rewarding story. So I think either way can be just as good depending on the skill of the author.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that it depends, but I do think that when specific details are given, it's good for there to be a reason for them. Is it character-revealing that that character is wearing very high heels? Is there a significance to that dolphin belt buckle? Should we interpret something from the fact that that character's Keds are still sparkling white at the end of summer? (I suspect I'm aging myself with that one.) Rather than dumping a bagful of details in front of the reader and making them sort through them, be selective.

    Also, what details would the viewpoint character notice? If a viewpoint character doesn't know what, say, silk moire is, then don't tell us that someone's wearing that, if you're using a tight viewpoint. Even if he does have all the words needed to describe something, is he interested enough to notice?

    So, It Depends.

    ChickenFreak
     
  4. Holden
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    Holden Senior Member

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    You need to distinguish between useful details and details that get in the way. It's great to create an image of a lush field of flowers and trees that overlook a brilliant lake, but it's quite another to list every flower and tree in the field, describe the position of each boat on the lack, and tell me whever an insect lands on a flower. Those minute details don't serve to improve my vision of the setting; they just clog my memory and get in the way. Paint the picture, but fill every single space with color. Give the reader a general feel, what they should be seeing, smelling, and hearing, but let them arrange those senses in a way that allows them to better connect to the story.
     
  5. PenandPencil
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    PenandPencil Member

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    Personally, I think too much detail is bad, in regards describing something. It's a spade, not a device for unearthing soil. Get me? Sometimes, simple is best - but no too simple either :p
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    That's not providing more detail, that's telling the reader what (s)he already knows. More descriptive would be "the spade, the handle of which had a crack running from the top all the way down to the dented rusty blade". Is that kind of detail necessary? It depends on the story. If the spade is in the story because Mr. Jones, in trying to work out the egregious moral dilemma in which he found himself, went out to the garden so he could think things through, and began turning the soil with his spade...then, no, probably not. But on the other hand, if Mr. Jones was found murdered in his garden, with traces of rust on his forehead, then, yes, it very well may.
     
  7. PenandPencil
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    PenandPencil Member

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    Reading over my post now ... I know what you mean. I meant making it simple, and not over-complicated, which doesn't exactly fit into detail, well, not so much anyway. :confused: :redface:

    Oh I don't know ... I'm only young!! :p
     
  8. 2l84zwamani
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    2l84zwamani New Member

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    I would differ it based on necessity, and the context. Sometimes it is more important to describe something superly (=.=), which in my case would be unusual and not-so-typical scenes like a field of flowers... ... . . . . . . although even that would need a little detail to distinguish it from other FOFs.

    Also, it depends on what's happening in the story as well - basically, the pace. If everything's happening very rapidly and dramatically, the character obviously wouldn't have time to take in plenty of detail and admire blahblah, unless the suspenseful thing happens AFTER (tried to use italics but enabling Javascript refreshes...) blahblah is looking at the wonderful magnificent blahblah.

    On the other hand, if it was in a relatively calm context, such as a relaxing walk through blahpah, it would probably be best to describe if the character's personality would want to describe something... so yeah

    Probably dead useless advice, but wagiwagi. I'm only 3
     
  9. 2l84zwamani
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    2l84zwamani New Member

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    Or perhaps a few years older
     
  10. Lina21
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    Lina21 New Member

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    Depends. I would give the reader a summary of what the character was like. Say, you could explain that he was an ordinary man who adored leather clothing and tattoos. Then the reader would have a good idea of what the character was like, but they could also creatively imagine what he was like for themselves. Just an idea.
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    True, but then, too much anything is bad. That's what "too much" means. The question is, how much is too much?
     
  12. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Let me give an example of my original point.

    Dialogue for instance.

    One of your characters may say "Oh okay." Those two words can have inflections in tone in so many ways, and it used to be that I word worry about making the reader understand the exact way it was said so that they could best convey the meaning.

    Now, sometimes it may be important to throw words like "sarcastic" or "excitedly" or "approvingly" in there, but now I see that you can let the reader figure it out for themselves.

    At the same time, I used to write all of the small actions my characters would take. Say they were at a bar, I would write "he drank from the glass." or "he slouched onto the table." or whatever, but if you just write that they went to the bar to get a drink, and then go into the dialogue, they're imagination will allow them to figure out how they may sip or drink or slouch or behave at a bar, and you don't have to force it.
     
  13. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    I lean for the need-to-know basis. I think it is generally a good idea to give the readers just enough to understand and see what is going on. Anything beyond what is necessary can clutter your sentences and make it harder to remember. I doubt most readers can remember every detail you give without flipping through the book.
     

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