1. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    Dialogue Centric vs Picturesque

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ian J., Aug 21, 2013.

    Thinking about Elmore Leonard's Rules 8 & 9:

    8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

    9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.

    I'm wondering how many people here have a preference in what they read (not what they write) for picturesque prose, where there is more detail about environment and the 'visuals', versus a more dialogue centric style where there is far less description to the point of bareness, and it's all about dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.

    Elmore Leonard's rules (particularly those above) seem to be about creating a 'hard boiled' style, very suitable for detective fiction, but maybe not for other genres?

    I personally like the author to paint a picture for me as well as tell a story, so that I feel that I have in my mind's eye an impression of what the author saw in their mind's eye while they were writing. However I wouldn't want to read pages and pages of description as that would be too much. I need enough to know what a character's general looks are, what kind of clothes they wear, what kind of home they live in, what kind of city or rural location they inhabit. Having none of that leaves me feeling I don't know the character at all.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    There are ways to describe things (aka 'show') while long descriptions tend to be more 'tell'. I do get bogged down when reading too much description. Try spreading it out and showing more when you edit and see too much telling.
     
  3. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most important is to avoid hitting us with the cliches. Rather than focusing on the waitress's sapphire blue eyes, hone in on her third breast.
     
  4. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I think it depends on the genre you read and the writer's choice. For example, read sci-fi and fantasy and you want description of both the characters and the setting. However, say if you were reading a drama set in the present-time world, I would require descriptions of the characters, but mainly focusing on the tense situation and dialogue. Those are just a couple of examples.

    One of my favourite (and least favourite) book is The Road. I won't go into why I don't like it, but one of the reasons I do is because the dialogue is so simplistic, yet the whole book is focused upon it. Now most readers, and possibly writers, would ask why he did not describe the setting more. The reason is because that is his style; it's the way he wrote it.

    Bottom line: write the book the way it needs to be written. Of course it depends on your style as well, but a writer's books can vary, so pick a way of writing the piece of fiction or non-fiction and do it your way. If you feel it's the way it should be done, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
     
  5. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Double post.
     
  6. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    @GingerCoffee : Ta, glad that it's showing up now :)

    @Thomas Kitchen : A bit like you say, I tend to think of sci-fi and fantasy as 'foreign' lands that are unknown to the reader, hence in need of extra work to fill out the senses so that the reader can experience the place as well as the story. So, I suppose in the case of Leonard's writing he is working very much in a place of the familiar, of that which is likely well known to the reader, so there's no need for much extra information beyond the story of the characters themselves.
     
  7. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think a lot of writers (especially beginners) just like to "show off" or feel the need to prove themselves. It's almost like they're afraid the readers will think less of them if they don't describe every little detail:

    "See, look at how amazingly deep my imagination is! Look at these rolling hills and this shimmering grass, and the dew on these leaves! I'm so damn creative I've imagined this scene in the minutest detail! Wanna know what color my MC's panties are? 'Cuz I do. Let me tell you all about it…"

    Some people can do it well, but, more often than not, it just comes off as a waste of my time when I read overly-long descriptions. It often comes across as the writer's heavy-handed attempts at "controlling" the narrative and making sure we see EXACTLY what they want us to see.

    IMO, readers will never see exactly what we want them to see and attempts to strongarm their perceptions into matching your own is a major turn-off. A good writer knows when to let go. You can lead the horse to water, but don't try to control how many sips it takes.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    my only preference as a reader is for good writing, period... what that consists of can take so many different forms that it's useless to try to list them..
     

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