1. Lucy1712
    Offline

    Lucy1712 New Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2012
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia

    How detailed is too detailed?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Lucy1712, Apr 15, 2014.

    So I'm trying to write this scene and, well, it isn't going so great. My characters have to attend a funeral. The scene exists as a vehicle for character development and interaction. My problem, though, stems from the uncertainty of how much of the funeral I need to write in.

    So my question is this: is there a point where a scene is too detail orientated?

    Do we need to see every single movement of that day or can the characters move through it at a quicker pace without having to detail their surroundings/movements in minute detail?
     
  2. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,724
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    This is the soul of art. There is no one right answer. You need enough detail to make the scene vivid to your readers, but not so much that the scene is buried in detail and becomes boring as a result. That's an artistic choice you need to make by yourself.

    My own preference is for including lots of detail. I'm patient, and I want patient readers. I don't feel the need to zip through scenes at ninety miles per hour. I'd rather hang around in a scene for a bit, letting the characters breathe and letting the readers feel invested in the setting.

    I know, however, that there are lots of people out there who will tell to to get on with the story, pedal to the metal, as fast as possible. Don't hang around to smell the roses. Don't ruminate on the meaning of what's happening. Just Go Go Go into the next scene and screw everything else.

    I don't like that kind of writing.

    You don't need to present everything that happened that day. But you do need to present enough to make your reader interested. I know that's not very helpful, but that's what being an artist is. You have to make your own choice.


    Good luck!
     
  3. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,345
    Likes Received:
    3,091
    Write the whole thing, then when you're going back in your edits, you might start to sort of get a feeling, you know, about each part of your story,

    Maybe your characters are pissed of they have to be there, in which case, you might not spend too much focus on the details of the funeral itself

    Maybe the dead person is a modern day Trimalchio, and you want to spend a couple of pages spelling out for us every single, sickening lavish detail.

    Once you know the scene's soul, you should have a better estimate of how many and what kinds of details you need.
     
    peachalulu and Ben414 like this.
  4. Ben414
    Offline

    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2013
    Messages:
    974
    Likes Received:
    785
    I agree with 123.

    It really depends on your character and your plot. Why is this scene important enough to be in the story? How does it affect your character?

    Is the entire point just to show the character is sad? If so, you probably don't need 20 pages of text. Is the point to show that the character doesn't want to be there despite the fact that he's sad, yet he feels obligated to show up out of some unknowable reason (his conscience? he doesn't want to give the wrong impression to others who are at the funeral?) and he wants to vent his anger at someone who he thinks may have indirectly caused the death (although not on purpose)? That will take more than a couple of pages.

    If he is trying to repress his feelings, he may have a detached description. If he is depressed, he may have a very narrow thought process where he focuses on a few things that he relates back to death. If he doesn't want to be there, he may not be focused on the funeral itself.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2014
  5. Bryan Romer
    Offline

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    381
    In real life, no one focuses and takes in everything, unless it is deliberate. Normally something catches your eye, you focus for a moment, finish a thought, and then move on. Generally describing a scene is the same. Your character may notice the make of the car, the weather at that particular moment, the state of the cemetery grounds, the shape of a particular tombstone, a pretty woman. It definitely shouldn't be a carefully constructed photographic image in words.
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  6. Smoke Z
    Offline

    Smoke Z Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2014
    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    36
    Write out all the detail, or put in notes about detail that you don't think will be important... then cut. If there is a memory later, you have it even if you didn't mention it at the time.
     
  7. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Detail slows pace. Sometimes that's exactly what you want, but other times, it's murder to otherwise lively writing.

    As in nearly every aspect of writing, you have to find the right balance, and you have to be aware of the drawbacks as well as the benefits.
     
  8. Lewdog
    Offline

    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2012
    Messages:
    7,530
    Likes Received:
    2,826
    Location:
    Williamsburg, KY
    Don't info dump, but at the same time if it is important for the character's development you need to make sure to create detail in what evokes the correct feelings in the character so the reader is able to relate to them. For example if it is his father's funeral, maybe have the character describe in detail what his dad is wearing and reminisce on a past event the character remembers where his dad also wore the outfit and how it makes him feel. Then maybe have the character leave an item in the casket and then create dialogue from the character to his dad about the item and how important it was to both of them. Little things like that will tell a lot about the character in the long run.
     
  9. Lucy1712
    Offline

    Lucy1712 New Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2012
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Thanks for the replies everyone - getting a few opinions from fellow creative types has helped me finish the scene.

    Admittedly I drew from personal experience to embellish the emotions of the MC who only manages to take in a few details of her surroundings because she can't find the strength to focus.

    Turns out, I was trying too hard to explain every step of the day, when the MC didn't have the emotional capacity to retain any of that information. I focused her attention on one aspect (the casket) and let the scene ride on her emotional turmoil.
     
  10. blinkstun
    Offline

    blinkstun Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2014
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    6
    Sometime I have this dilemma as well, and sometime it's the opposite such that I am unable to describe something properly because of my limited knowledge about it. When the former happens, I try to make the sentences as descriptive and precise as possible. It's like writing in phrases rather than entire simple sentences.
     

Share This Page