1. Lalli38
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    Lalli38 Member

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    How important are the details?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Lalli38, Mar 11, 2012.

    Ok, ok I know. Details are everything, right? But how much is too much? I find myself writing my "based on a (my) true story" type piece and obsessing over details. Cobwebs in the corner, fruit bowl on the counter type details. I think it's because I lived a lot of the situations in it myself and I want to hand the reader a complete image on a silver platter. But how do you feel about it when you're reading? Do you prefer to have it all spelled out for you (the setting, that is) or would you rather fill in the gaps yourself? My piece takes place in a country that was, at the time, foreign to me. I suppose in that case it's pretty important. I just feel like sometimes, too many details about the venue for each scene gets boring.

    As a side note, I find myself doing this when I get way too "into" my own story for too long. I don't know if that makes sense. I sometimes feel I'm too close to the story and can't see the big picture clearly.

    What do you think?

    Cheers!
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    One of the important details is how you select which details to put in the story.

    What is relevant, and what is irrelevant? What contributes to the tone or substance, and what merely speaks to hear itself?

    Does the reader need to know the appearance of character X? To what extent? Gender? Probably. Hair color? Perhaps. The exact number and placement of her facial freckles? Probably not.

    These are decisions at a broad-strokes level, but similar decisions at finer levels are a judgment caqll, and the way each decision tips will subtly alter the reader's experience.
     
  3. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    I myself prefer less detailed descriptions of the story surroundings. Of course, I don't think anything is wrong with pointing out spider-webs and fruit bowls. I just don't think it's necessary to tell the reader EVERYTHING! It's boring and lengthy and takes the reader away from the action- if it drags on. The most important thing is that you don't digress about it, going on and on about the mahogany piano and the black cabinet. Just point out the things that stand out in the place, things that build the world and make it the unique thing it is.

    For example, you mentioned the fruit bowl, maybe if you want to imply to the reader that the place has a classic, homely feeling to it you can point that out. Don't say it feels homely, make it sound and look homely in the reader's imagination.

    My thoughts.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My advice is pick one of your favourite authors off the shelves, the one who's novels you really visualised and look at them.

    I write as close to my favourite author on this one as I can and include minor details more than major ones and lots of straight forward colour (red rather than vermillion etc). I keep the basic description simple without a lot of flowery language.

    His stories are the ones that make my mind sing.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If you mention a detail, the reader might assume that it's important to the story. If you talk about a fruit bowl, but it never matters anywhere, then the reader might close the book after reading it and say, "What about that fruit bowl? Why was it in there?"

    Your readers have WONDERFUL imaginations, and those imaginations are your best tool. Don't fill your story up with unnecessary description. The readers will build your scenes in their minds better than you can. Mention what's important, skip what isn't, and let your bright, creative readers fill in the rest.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A fruit bowl may be just an element of the picture that helps hide Waldo (the detail that IS key to the story). At the same time, it can speak about the character who lives there (the fruit is fresh and neatly arranged).
     
  7. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    I think you should proably ask yourself the reverse question.

    How much detail is important?

    Is it important that we need to know about this fruit or it's bowl? Is it important that there are cobwebs? Do they play a part in providing the reader with an insight into what is going on -- as alluded to before, if Aunt Annie used to be a fastidious and house proud woman but, when you went round to see her a week after her husband ran away with the woman next door. The house was stuffy, the corners filled with cobwebs and the fruit rotted in her favorite alabaster bowl - well then we might get a clue about what's going on.

    It's like saying that the house had walls, a roof and some windows - most readers probably know what a house looks like - dont describe it. If it has a glass roof with images of dolphins carved into it - that might be something we wouldn't necessarily expect. Am I making myself clear or just waffling - probly waffling so I'll stop.
     
  8. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    If you slip it in naturally and in passing, then details are great and you can get away with as many as you want.

    You start running into problems when you start writing paragraphs, or even too many sentences, that exist SOLELY to describe detail. Then it just becomes an infodump. Any detail(s) can be subtly weaved in without making it/them the sole purpose of the text.
     
  9. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    How important are the details?

    That depends on the on the details.

    It is up to you, the author to deside whether certain info is important to the story or not. Is the information a nessasary part of the plot? Does the information move the story forward? Is the information relevant/irrelevant?
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    in a situation of high tension the (right) details can both set the atmosphere and add to the suspence, and as long as heavy description is not something you do through the entire novel I don't see a problem.
     
  11. Tashanel
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    Tashanel Member

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    Well, detail is very important. When you want to make people keep guessing on your story and also, to make introduce without tell it plainly on dialogue/monologue. So, you must put a detail that explain your character a lot, like Cogito say.

    I ussually practice when i read a movie that not using dialogue too much (not anime or manga, that in other hand always tell it plainly in dialogue). Try to watch an indie movie that less with dialogue (you will see a montage that how movie tell the detail). For the first step, you can learn it from icelandic movie that so called "The Last farm/Sidaesti Baerinn (from zikzak film workshop). That the most favourite film i ever watch which is good on setting development (and also less dialogue :D )
     
  12. marcuslam
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    marcuslam Senior Member

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    If a detail helps with characterization or tone, then it deserves to be in the story. Also, if it's something uncommon in everyday world, I'm interested in knowing about it, too. Everyone is different, though. It's impossible to make everybody happy when it comes to things like this. The more you write, the better you'll become at this.
     
  13. Afion
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    Afion Senior Member

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    The amount and type of detail can depend on the POV. If it's in first person, the things the MC notices can tell the reader a lot about him or her. :)
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    LOL this is very, very true. I have one character that is so vain he actually gets away with the mirror description without it being too cliche or feeling out of place, because he does appraise himself and tell himself how wonderful he is in the mirror every morning as he looks for grey hairs and blemishes. None of my others would get away with it.
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Which details add to the atmosphere and really gives the reader a sense of how you feel about the environment?

    For example, if I were to write about my first arrival in England when I emigrated all the way from Hong Kong - and now that's quite a world of difference - I wouldn't talk about the cars, or the streets, or exactly what sizes the lawns were.

    I'd talk about how cold it was, how it snowed, how vast the fields were, how amazed I was to see horses and cows, how small every building was (HK is a land filled with sweeping skyscrapers - think New York), how there was cats everywhere.

    If I wanted to describe HK to an Englishman, I may talk about the TV, because every household had it on whether anyone was watching it or not. I may speak of the street vendors, because England has none (apart from touristy bits in London) - Chinese vendors selling sweet potatoes and brown puddings and chili tofu.

    Give detail for things that your readers cannot imagine without your help.
     
  16. Tashanel
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    Tashanel Member

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    This is give me a sight :D
     

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