From the seasoned one…

Descriptions in stories:

Have you ever read a story where they start describing something and it goes on and on and on until you’ve forgotten what is supposed to be happening or you finally skip ahead to get back to the story?  How about the opposite?  Have you read a story where you can’t picture anything because the author has only mentioned the barest details?

Description is a necessity in writing, you’ll find this in every writing manual you’ll ever read.  However, it can be a bit of a tightrope walk to find the right balance between giving your readers enough information to paint the scene in their mind and not boring them to death with details that no one but you, the writer, cares about.

I’ve read many books that fall into the first category, causing me to skip ahead.  Sadly, at times, my writing falls into the second category.  I have some dear friends who read my material and will often point out areas where I need to do more descriptions.  But how much is too much?  I guess that is a variable that can only be decided by the reader.  Some love lots of detail, some just want to get on with the story.  However, there are a couple of guidelines you could probably follow.  Once again, these are only ideas that I use in my writing, use them if you wish.

  • When describing something, picture it in your mind and give it a minimum amount of details as you’re trying to get the whole idea down on the page.
  • When finished, wait until the next day and read what your wrote.  Now is the time to embellish and make it come alive.
  • Now, walk away from it and continue on with your story.
  • When you are finished and it has come time to edit, read it again.  Do you find yourself skipping sentences?  If so, you need to trim it down.  Do you have problems picturing the original idea?  If so, you need to embellish it some more.
  • Finally, give it to a friend and ask them to focus on the descriptions.  If they can picture it, great!  Job well done.  If they can’t, well, it’s time to go back and work on the description a bit more.  If they tell you it’s overly long, time to get out the hack saw.

Another guideline I’ve read says a paragraph or two of description is probably adequate for most scenes.  When you are running a page or two, you’ll probably lose the reader’s interest.  I find this to be pretty true when I am reading a book.

For a little more “professional advice,” check out the following links:

Good luck to you and have fun with your writing.  Until next time!


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