1. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    Spending too much time on details

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by drifter265, Mar 7, 2013.

    Just so you can see what I mean, compare my first chapter and rough draft in the writing workshop under "novels" with "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" you can find somewhere online. Do you see the difference? The first is trying to explain every little detail and the latter just gives it one sentence and moves onto something else. The latter is 100x better than the former. It focuses more on story and not what they ate for breakfast and how they liked it leading to shitty novel.

    Link 1: http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=60320
    Link 2: http://www.freebook4u.org/fantasticfiction/2010/141/5948.html

    Does anyone else spend too much time on details and not enough story?

    Also, this is why reading many books makes you a better writer.
     
  2. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    The problem with too much detail is that it leaves little for the reader to imagine. If the reader applies some of the detail, they can fashion the image of a character/environment to their satisfaction, and helps to draw them in to the story.

    But having said that, I've recently finished a trilogy set in the Hebrides. The whole mood is governed by the weather, country, seasons, night and day, discomfort, toil and labour. And these details and descriptions give the reader a fairly intimate knowledge of the environment and life and culture - particularly on the isles of Lewis and Harris.

    In one sense the capturing of detailed mood reminds me of the film Seven with Morgan Freeman. Almost throughout it rained...

    So the amount of detail depends on what really you want to achieve.
     
  3. punchthedamnkeys
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    punchthedamnkeys Member

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    it depends greatly on what part of the story you're in, i think. if it's an important part, let's say it's suppose to mean something to a character in the story, i think you have to try and go the extra distance in portraying that particular scene to the reader. if done correctly, it lets a reader actually get into the story, as opposed to taking a reader out of it. i do agree it is easy to get out of hand with too much detail sometime, i find myself doing it too...
     
  4. A.Tad.of.Conrad
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    A.Tad.of.Conrad Member

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    It depends on what you want your reader to focus on. Obviously, the reader's imagination is your greatest ally in writing and often "less is more." However, describing a certain detail to set up mood, symbolism, characters, and plot points is also very important.

    Just keep in mind the immortal words of Polonius: "Brevity is the soul of wit."
     
  5. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    content removed by author
     
  6. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    I've added the links. Thanks for pointing that out. Also, I love "Brevity is the soul of wit."
     
  7. live2write
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    Unless I have to describe a significant detail relating to a character or relating to a scene that is important and specific I do not add much detail. I have had this problem in the past when writing the first sample drafts of my current novel that I am writing and I found it to be a waste of time and space in the chapters.

    It is one thing to describe a character to give a general idea of who the protagonist and other characters are as long as is to help understand the background and why the characters are mentioned. Example: I have my characters viewing a city in the distance on a hill, only described that there were buildings and skyscrapers decorated in blue and white lights, the city streets illuminated silver from the moonlight and the view of the coast line beyond it. Anybody who has been to a city or knows a city would know what it looks like geographically. However there is a scene that I do describe a palace created from growths if ice in nature that I gave more detail to but still left the viewer to fill in the details.

    Plus, it is very hard to read a novel that has too much detail where the mind drifts off into anotherland
     
  8. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    My problem wasn't that I added too much detail, it was, but was that I didn't know where the story was going. Once I figured that out I quit all the boring details and just worked on the story. If something is worth mentioning about their past, or a girl is really hot, I'll mention that and go into extreme detail about it but going two pages about how someone felt about their mother's death, when the story is about killing zombies, isn't a page turner.
     
  9. rodereve
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    Depends on the genre, I like a lot of description when it comes to fantasy or sci-fi dystopian novels where the setting is all new territory. As for normal everyday fiction, might want to lessen it and focus more on the story and interaction of people. The imagination of new worlds/post-apocalyptic Earth is directed a lot by the author, imagination of current/past way of life - needs only a prod in the right direction.

    This is why (and people are probably going to disagree with me for saying this) I think Dickens bored me with too much description, while Bradbury had a perfect balance. They both had their own different niche genre, and that made the diff imo.
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think it really helps if any description or detail can be filtered through the senses of one of your characters.

    If it's landscape you're dealing with - a common story element which is often presented as 'description,' try to present it as your character sees it. What is there about that particular landscape at that particular moment is making an impression on him/her? You don't usually have to go into an incredible amount of detail, or tell us facts which go without saying, like snow is cold, water is wet, thunder is loud, mountains are high, etc. Just give your character's impression of what is there.

    An example, from something I'm working on just now:

    "Later that night, a huge crack of thunder dragged Jozsi from his bed in the middle of the night. Half-dazed, he stumbled to the window in time to see a sheet of lightning turn the darkness into brief midday. Then black outdoors again. Another flash, and the windmill turned blue, from the tip of the madly-whirling wheel to the iron base bedded firmly in the ground. The second whallop of thunder that followed made him leap back from the window ledge. His mother shrieked faintly in the room next to theirs, then, in the unearthly quiet which followed, before the first lashes of rain clattered against the thin glass, he heard Papa's voice soothing her, the same voice Papa would use to quiet a frightened mare."

    This may not be stellar writing, but it's an example of what I try to do. Filter landscape through a character, whenever possible. It makes the details seem real, more like an experience you're having than a painting on a wall.

    Same with smaller details. Here's a description of a bottle the same character found washed up on a riverbank: "The dregs smelled terrible when Jozsi pried the cork out and put his nose to the rim. It was evidently some particularly noxious variety of patent medicine. Jozsi rinsed and recorked the blue bottle before adding it to his pile of findings. Boiled clean, it would make a pretty vinegar bottle — in her favorite color—for Mama to keep on her table beside the salt box, but he didn't want her to get notions regarding the leftover medicine."

    You can also describe people through the eyes of another character, give us an idea of what the characters think of each other as well as simple description.

    Another example from my own writing (this character has just had a shave and haircut): "When he emerged from the towel, he tossed his damp hair back with a deft flick of his head. His jawline, now fully revealed, was firm and square, as boldly fashioned as the contour of his cheekbones. Made slightly breathless by his transformation, Jessie stared at him—acutely conscious, just then, of how good-looking he was. His dense black beard had lent him an exotic aura of mystery, but without it he became instantly more accessible, livelier, even more boyish than his nineteen years. She liked the way the corner of his mouth twisted when he smiled at her. "I'd have made a mess of that myself," he said. "Thank you, Jessie."

    These little tricks can work detail and description painlessly into your narrative. It's fun to work in this manner, and I think it improves the experience for the reader as well. In addition, details that are presented this way tend to stick.
     

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