1. appledotte
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    appledotte Member

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    Writing/Reading Description Preferences

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by appledotte, Jan 14, 2016.

    How do you guys prefer reading or writing description? Are you someone that lives for all the little details or are you someone who prefers just enough to get by?

    Me personally: I don't care for tons of description. Knowing the waiter's name or the brand of the sheets when it has no impact on anything irritates me to the point of wanting to throw the book across the room. But, then, I'm impatient. In my writing I tend to be fairly sparing in my descriptions until I want to either slow down or amp up a particular section, or I want to draw attention to something important for the reader.
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I like concrete details ( or at least concrete nouns & descriptors ) but if the scene doesn't require them and it would be distracting to put them in then I don't. For instance if a woman is getting attacked and strangled by a man with a scarf and it's her pov she'd hardly take note that she was getting strangled by a Betsey Johnson scarf unless it was some sort of dark humored scene.
    On the other hand if the story is filled with things like sipped his drink, drove his car, reached for a weapon - it can get awful boring. Part of knowing a character is knowing he drinks a martini - and maybe even taking it a step further - he likes it shaken not stirred.
     
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  3. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    I like details as long as they are relevant to the characters and situation, but I hate excessive information and usually just gloss over them while going, "yadi yadi yada blah blah blah." However, there is a difference between being detailed and being excessive for me. It is possible to be extremely detailed in one or two sentences without repetition. On the other hand, if those same two sentences are describing the same thing in different ways, exaggerating, or trying to clarify each other by giving examples, then that counts as excessive.
     
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  4. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    I tend to summarize, but focus mainly on descriptions that tell the reader as much as possible about the scene or character. I don't start writing long winded descriptions that cover every detail.

    For a long winded example, The man wore an elegant uniform that was clean and pressed and embellished with shiny, gold buttons, silk trim cuffs, and a long tail that flapped as he walked.

    I'd much rather write something along the times of The man was a stately figure, who wore his trinket embellished uniform with pride.

    Trinket embellished tell us about all the bells and whistles on the uniform.
    Pride tells us the uniform is probably clean and well pressed.
    Stately figure tells us what kind of man and uniform is being presented.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016
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  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My answer is, as it almost always is, that I like description that is deliberate. If the writer begins to wax rhapsodic as to the person/place/or thing, that should be my cue that this thing is of importance in some way, be it to the plot, to the perception of a character, etc. It needs to fit the context of the story and what is going on. When it's just the writer's "little darling" paragraph of description, then that's narrative intrusion of the bad sort to me. That's the writer trying to show me that he/she is clever, rather than making the story clever.

    Also, unless it really fills the above admittedly vague description, tip-to-toe descriptions of characters' physical appearance is tedious. Unless there's a solid reason for me to be knowing it, I'm uninterested. Yes, I know you've spent the last 5 years turning this character into a pretend friend of sorts and you just really want me to know him/her as you chum, but... no. Again, I feel like that's narrative intrusion.
     
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  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like concrete details, but not too many of them, unless the extra details are there for a reason, like the character being fascinated with something, or in a meditative mood, or bored, etc.

    So my characters won't meet in "a diner", they'll meet at The Sand Bucket. But we won't hear much, or possibly anything, about the restaurant unless the character is bored to the point of counting ceiling tiles, or offended that they were invited to such a dump, or musing about some diner of their childhood, or some other reason.
     
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  7. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    I've constantly for years been phobic that I'm too detailed in my exposition/movement within scenes, though whenever people read my stuff they insist it's not too much, and that they like it. And when I reread my own stuff from years ago it seems faster and cleaner than it did when I was writing it.

    But yeah detail can grind the pace down. And that's necessary sometimes. I agree with the poster above that if it's unwarranted in the situation being presented then it will stand out and come off as annoying. (the scarf/rape example is what I'm referring to)

    I think the writer must develop a FEEL for what sounds right, and when to use more or less detail. For me, when I read back over old scenes I'm editing I always try to tighten up sentences and maintain a good pace and flow. So, as I'm rereading my stuff if something comes off awkward I clean it up until it 'feels' right.

    And as others said, detail is more necessary in certain types of passages than in others. (again, the rape/scarf example is a good one)

    <iftherewerearaisedbeermugemojiiwouldhaveputitherebutalasthereisntonesoiplacedthishereinstead>
     
  8. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    One more thing...

    In my learning through the years I've come to believe that every line, detail, whatever should be vital or if not then remove it.

    By vital I mean, it should either advance the plot somehow or offer necessary insight into a character.

    (Like with Chekhov's Gun)
     
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  9. Michail Bulgakov
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    Michail Bulgakov New Member

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    I agree that the details should be significant, but even naming brands can be that. I was thinking of James Bond for example. His excellent taste and virile masculinity is enhanced by his choice of cars, whisky, watches and so on. Here it serves as a daydream for the reader, "if only I could possess all those fancy items and be a little more like him". But I also thought about Patrick Bates in "American Psycho". Here the endless naming of all the expensive brands shows how shallow and superficial his life is. (So is James Bond's I guess but that is not what the writer wants to show).
    So it all depends on the context.
    I usually hate the mention of Egyptian cotton, truffle oil and lengthy descriptions of the exotic foods that are consumed or of the designer clothes people are wearing. Unless, of course, it tells us something vital about the characters.
     
  10. Michail Bulgakov
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    Michail Bulgakov New Member

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    also, I think today it's more usual to mention the gun in the first act and then not have it fired in the third, as a means of demonstrating the random nature of events in this contingent universe where nothing is related to anything else
     
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  11. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Good points @Michail Bulgakov and this is why I like these boards. :)
     
  12. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    In my learning through the years I've come to believe that every line, detail, whatever should be vital or if not then remove it.

    Choose one colour to remove, as only one of them can be vital.
     
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  13. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    I feel the same way.

    My problem is I fall into the trap of over-describing minute actions when the words are flying, then I trim it down in rewrite. I can't quite reconcile how to balance this in my own method because my focus is living in the scene and building an appropriate mood/flow for what is happening with the character. Re-reading always offers insights. OTOH I think description with too much overview that doesn't go deep enough comes off as a summary without the right feel.

    But I really like what you said here.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2016

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