S L Dwyer

Description - too little or too much

Recently took part in a discussion concerning how much is too much description in a book. There were quite a few differing opinions, but the consensus came down to description is fine unless it become "heavy handed". So, who is to say what is heavy handed - the writer or the reader. I say the reader.

As readers, we become immersed in the story and may not want to be jolted out of the experience by a lengthy description of place, object, history or techno explanation. Then again, there are readers who absolutley love all the techno information and read these author's books because of all the interesting information the writer includes in their stories.

All writing must include at least one of the five senses on each page. Sounds easy, right? Not so much. How do you include a sense when the character is musing in their own head, or a full page of dialog? Nothing happens in our lives - not one full minute goes by without one of our five senses coming into play. While musing, the character may scratch their head or nose - touch. A character lost in the woods may come across a whif of smoke - smell. Maybe a character takes a sip of wine - taste -  or watches as the glass falls to the floor and shatters when he sets the glass too close to the edge of the table - sight and sound. Or lets a cigarette burn down in his fingers - feel.

These may be small, but can dress a scene that invites the reader into the character's life. Now, there are writers who take description to the max and can't tell your what time it is without telling you how to build the clock.  Are they making a mistake? Only the reader can make that decision. Gloss over all the endless descriptions and move on with the story or take a moment and increase your knowledge on a particular subject. It's the readers choice.

There is no right or wrong way to write description.


After the lengthly description in the first part of the story, Red October, I prefer giving descriptions as I go along.

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