1. Agent Vatani
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    Agent Vatani Active Member

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    Details

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Agent Vatani, Nov 18, 2010.

    I learn a lot from "feedback", one of my readers said, "you have good plot, characters but not enough detail." Not enough detail is not but to much is just as bad too. I fear I'll put to much detail in my work, but I don't it seems. How do I put more detail in it my work?
    (Here's a little piece to see how I write or type)

    Tom laid on his belly on the middle of the couch, he is a fat cat. His smoky gray fur would lifted then slowly go down as he breathed through his nose. Every few second in his sleep, his claws would come out and go into the couch then he would sheath his claws again. Tom was needing the couch with his claws in his sleep.

    Any ideas, thank you.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    What do your other readers say? If they also say that your writing lacks detail, then that might be something to look over. But if no one else has mentioned it, then it may not be a problem at all. Just remember that you can't please every single reader out there.
     
  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I think the piece you gave is good as far as amount of detail, but there are some grammatical errors (won't get nitpicky on that as that's not what you're asking about).

    One thing about details is to slip them in naturally in passing: one here, one there, etc. For instance, in one scene you could say Tom's belly dragged on the ground as he dug into his cat food, and in another scene you could briefly mention his sharp claws.

    This way, readers get a full picture of what he looks like, but you aren't saying "Tom was a fat gray cat with long claws.." etc etc
     
  4. Agent Vatani
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    Agent Vatani Active Member

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    Just two readers said, "just more detail and it would be good. Sorry not being rude" I understood it. Also heard, use all of the senses, sight, hearing, smell,taste and touch. I try that too it helps some, yeah my grammar is bad in english.. I have about 45 readers, but some won't say anything because they think I'll get my kung-fu out on them.. Which I won't, my writing isn't perfect.
     
  5. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    People providing feedback are giving you their opinions. That is what they are their opinions, it does not mean that they are right.
    Listen to what they say and then make your own mind up. You have your own opinion and you may be right.
    With experience you will gain knowledge and confidence and will be able to accept or decline feedback depending on whether it is helpful or not.
    The sample of writing you gave does not lack description. (in my opinion. What do you think? You're the writer you're opinion is the important one)

    Edit- just read your last post. 45 readers is far too many. I wonder how you ever get anything written.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd have to say there's way too much piddling little detail there, unless you're intending to write a boring piece on the physiology of cats... plus, there are many errors there that need correcting:

    hope this helps... love and hugs, maia
     
  7. Agent Vatani
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    Agent Vatani Active Member

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    Thanks.
    About the cat, that was just something. I'm not writing about cat, just something to show my details..
    45 reader, I write on a another site. That's how many 45 readers I got but they all don't give feedback.
     
  8. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    If your story is in several pieces or sections -- for example, if you're writing on an online site and uploading individual sections or chapters as you finish them -- look back at the reader comments to see what sections they were referring to.

    I say this because different sections of your story will likely have different pacing. It could be that you are fine when you describe the characters, but you don't use detail when they are doing particular actions. Or maybe you don't describe the landscape. Or maybe you aren't showing the tools and equipment the character has.

    I'll give a few examples; the differences should show up clearly.

    Introducing a new character, the bare-bones version

    The gates opened, admitting a rider, who slowed his horse as he entered the yard. He looked about uncertainly in the dim light, but recognised Elise when she stood up and waved.

    He got off the horse and led it over, saluting when he saw her rank. Elise returned the boy's salute.

    "I brought the maps and a message to Reda Cauwl, from the leader of the Esmarr Free States." He handed them over. "Also, I passed some fresh blood on the Eastgate road, might be bandits or thieves."

    Elise nodded. "Get your horse taken care of and then stop by the Map Room -- there's a sign in the barracks, or you can ask for directions if you can't read. The Marchwarden will want to know where you found the blood, and may want to ask you other things."

    Same scene, some details added

    There was movement in the towers, and the gates opened. A boy rode through, slowing from a trot as he entered the yard in order to avoid running over the people and animals there. He looked about uncertainly -- he was young enough that this might be his first visit to Posseroi -- but recognised Elise when she stood up and waved.

    He got off the horse and led it over. It looked tired, but pricked its ears up alertly when Elise returned the boy's salute.

    "I brought the maps and a message to Reda Cauwl, from the leader of the Esmarr Free States." He handed them over. "Also, I passed some fresh blood on the Eastgate road, might be bandits or thieves."

    Elise nodded. "Get your horse taken care of and then stop by the Map Room -- there's a sign in the barracks, or you can ask for directions if you can't read." Some messengers couldn't; it prevented them from copying messages down, although Elise thought it stupid not to trust your own men. Well, that was the Free States for you. "The Marchwarden will want to know where you found the blood, and may want to ask you other things."

    Same scene, maximum detail This is how I would write it if Posseroi were going to be a major location in the story.

    There was movement in the towers, and the iron-bound gates swung open. A boy rode through, clad in the dark green and gray of the Free State messenger service; when he turned the horse toward her Elise could see the faint metallic gleam of a maille shirt under his jacket. He rode well, slowing his horse from a trot as they passed into the inner courtyard; although it was night, and the chickens that normally strutted underfoot had gone to roost, there were still a few dogs about, keeping a respectful distance from the horse but plainly interested in this stranger from abroad.

    The messenger looked about uncertainly, blinking in the light from the gas lamps spaced around the edge of the cobblestoned yard, which had been lit only a few minutes before by the lamplighter, who would spend the next hour or so lighting Posseroi's West Quarter, then come back early in the morning to extinguish them all again. Elise wondered whether the boy had been here before -- Posseroi was a common enough destination for horse-borne messengers, but the boy was young enough that he might have only recently joined the service.

    He recognised her easily enough after she stood and waved to him. He dismounted quickly, leading the horse over until he was close enough to read her shoulder stripes and salute. She returned it, then waited expectantly while he reached into the inner pocket of his jacket.

    "I brought the maps and a message to Reda Cauwl, from the leader of the Esmarr Free States," he said, handing them over. "Also, I passed some fresh blood on the Eastgate road, might be bandits or thieves."

    Elise nodded, stifling a groan -- the last thing her city needed was more bandit trouble. First things first, though. "Get your horse taken care of and then stop by the Map Room -- there's a sign in the barracks, or you can ask for directions if you can't read." Some messengers couldn't; it prevented them from copying messages down, although Elise thought it stupid not to trust your own men. Well, that was the Free States for you. "The Marchwarden will want to know where you found the blood, and may want to ask you other things."

    A handful of points

    1. Different writers have different styles. Stephen King and S.M. Stirling write with a lot of detail, and they're popular enough. But you don't have to write that way. Anne Bishop uses a far sparser writing style, but her Black Jewels Trilogy sold roughly half a gazillion copies. In the end, it's your call; use what you're comfortable with.

    2. Locations and people who will show up again later deserve more detail. Anything that shows up for only a scene can get dropped. Also, any generic scene calls for a broad brush.

    What I mean is this: if the scene could happen on any given day, describe general activity and actions, but don't give a lot of detail to any one person or action. So if your character comes into a new town, have her notice the tok! tok! of someone splitting wood, the children and chickens running about, the merchants in their shops and colorful stalls, the smells of fresh-baked bread and roasting vegetables and sweet hay and the faint background odor of horse manure and woodsmoke. But don't go into lots of detail about every kid, or every stall; the point is that there are a bunch of them, and at any particular moment you'll see the generic activity going on, but not necessarily done by a given person as much as by the generic "people who live in this town."

    3. Plot-vital things get as much description as they need. If there is a ritual that must be done perfectly to summon a demon without it eating the summoner, talk a little about the steps and preparation involved -- especially if an error will, at some point, kill the summoner. If there is an amulet that has been passed down from mother to daughter for a hundred years, and it will be used later to identify someone, describe the amulet.

    This is basically insurance against your readers getting angry because they think you cheated and broke the rules. "Nope," you can tell them, "all the details were there. It's not my fault you missed it." (Also, this is essential for mystery writers even more than other writers. The whole point of a mystery is for the reader to get to the end and then be annoyed at themselves because they failed to put the details together. Or be satisfied because they were clever enough to realize what the details meant, and they solved the crime about the same time the protagonist did.)

    4. Unusual activities and tools get more description than normal ones. I don't need to describe a pocketknife, but if I talk about a glaive or a ritual bone knife, I should tell the reader what it looks like. Walking probably doesn't need extra detail, but if someone is blind or has a clubfoot they will walk differently, and that should be noted. And of course, odd activities like dragon riding, magic use, computer programming / cracking, mountain climbing up a vertical ice wall, or repairing a space shuttle all require a little more explanation and description.
     
  9. Agent Vatani
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    Agent Vatani Active Member

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    Thanks, that helps a lot.
    My writing is probably the middle one, some detailed added. I try to get the readers to enjoy it and not guessing.
     

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