More detail or Less detail

I have noticed that in some books or novels the author often doesn’t add alot of detail, or just enough so that the reader can imagine what they are reading. What are your thoughts? Do you think would you prefer to be told how the characters look or do you like to imagine how the character looks and do you prefer to imagine said characters date location or to be told?

Further on the note of describing stuff in books, often I find that authors write a stuff like ‘the beautiful girl’ and don’t describe why she is beautiful, but from one viewpoint, not describing what is beautiful allows the readers taste to be meet, because they are must have some kind of description that they consider to be what I may call beautiful.

So what I really wanted to discuss was more detail or less detail, I know there is a balance and sometimes there are people at either end of the spectrum, some might prefer lots of detail, well others would prefer less detail so their minds can fill in the blanks.

What are your personal thoughts on More detail or Less detail? I would love to hear some more opinions about whether letting the reader imagine what they want or to tell them what you think you see.

I say, if the story is in first person, which means the MC is narrating, calling someone beautiful is perfectly acceptable because the MC thinks that person is beautiful. You might have the MC describe why he or she thinks someone is beautiful.

If they are describing themselves and they have a narcissistic attitude, perfectly acceptable. When I write in third person, I rarely use subjective descriptors like Beautiful, Handsome, Ugly to describe anything. That’s when you drop those and go for a fuller description.

As far as detail, it seems you are only talking about character descriptions, in which I say it depends on how you go about describing your characters. If you weave it into your story naturally, be as descriptive as you want. If an MC is performing a seven paragraph monologue in front of a mirror… the writer should dial that down.

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Honestly, @Blackice is spot on. In first person, a character describing themselves can quickly appear either vein or self-deprecating.

In third person, you want to give description in a way that’s subtle and flows with the story rather than pauses it. Description should always be given in a way that adds to the story rather instead of overshadowing the story.

A writer once said that the best character description is one that the readers can provide after reading the book, but not be able to track it down in the story because it’s given in such small pieces that flow with the rest of the scene.

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I would say the amount of description I want or expect from a book depends a lot on the genre. If it’s something like Teen Fiction or YA, I don’t care as much about what the environment looks like or even the characters, because the settings such stories take place in are usually very common. We’ve all seen what a high school looks like, no need to describe it in depth. But if I’m reading a fantasy or sci-fi, then yes, I’ll expect a lot of description surrounding the world and its people because it’s something I’ve never experienced before and therefore can’t easily picture for myself.

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I think one should be consistent in your approach. Like if you want to be less detailed, don’t suddenly go descriptive for certain scenes/characters. And I think at least a barebones description is expected by most readers, ‘beautiful’ and ‘girl’ doesn’t quite cut it really. Sometimes the context helps, like if its a school/college setting readers can imagine how a student looks, but if its just someone on the street/random place you might need to describe the basic appearance.

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I think you are really right, greater detail is generally only required when it is something unfamiliar or when trying to set the mood.

My rule of thumb is to describe just enough of the backdrop and persons, plus describe unusual/interesting things in more words. For me, it’s always important for the description to either feed, highlight or contrast the emotions of the MC

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More detail.

I think it’s okay to be vague on some parts of the story like the exact location or what a character really looks like, but if they’re very important to the story and serve some kind of purpose, I’d like to have those details. Otherwise, I’d feel lost. I’ve read books where they don’t describe much of the surroundings or what the people from other planets and other fantastical races look like and it confused the heck out of me because I wasn’t sure what was going on… :woman_shrugging:

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It’s hard to say. I definitely agree with you, I think like a lot of things, it’s a balance. (And the balance is what makes writing tricky because it’s hard to get it balanced) You don’t want too little details where it’s confusing as to what’s going on or you’re not really immersed, but also there’s a risk of just too much detail where it makes the reader want to skim. I’ve also seen both ends of the extreme, and neither are fun to read.

However, if I were forced to pick which one, I think I’d pick less detail because I do like a good flash/micro fiction piece where less is more and it’s impressive when the author can paint a great picture with few words.

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I completely agree with you! Having large portions of only character descriptions in a chapter kills the flow for me as a reader.

The characters’ actions throughout the whole story serve as a better description. The faces they make, how they talk, what their posture is even. I can picture them way better in my mind then.

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I think it depends on certain factors, but you have raised some valid points and really got me thinking.
Doing too much, or too less of anything is not good.
Like, if you decide to go into the depth of describing everything, then your book will just drag on and the readers will immediately lose interest. For example, if I want to describe how a girl looks beautiful, than I would describe something about her that is especially entrancing, say ‘her dark brown eyes, so dark that they could be confused for black and so deep that they threatened to pull me in and drown me in the whirlpool, if I dared to go near them.’ And I would stop at that. Because if I continue describing how her lips looked or how her dress fitted her, then I would be just boring myself and the readers.
But then, I also wouldn’t just say ‘She looked beautiful. Her face, her lips, her eyes, everything seemed to allure me.’ Even though, they’re some good lines, it seems a little rushed and doesn’t give the reader the time to paint a picture in their heads.
So, I would personally go for providing some essential details that are enough to let the readers to paint a picture of their own, where most of the color is filled by me, but they still have the space and shades to finish it in their own way.

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As a writer, I prefer more details, always.When it comes to character, I’d describe their physical features instead of just saying that they’re beautiful or so. I’d describe their eyes, skin, hair,… If I can, I’ll compare them to certain objects, usually ones that have to do with the characters’ surroundings. For example, blue like the ocean and sky, white as the clouds, sparkling like millions of stars in the midnight above them,… If I’m describing the surroundings, I tend to add in the mood and vibe of the air around them, the noises, projecting the characters’ emotions into how they observe the world around them.

As a reader, I’m fine with the author not going into a lot of details. But I’ll mind if the sentences are rushed and things are going too quickly, regardless of the general pace of the book.

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Personally, as I write horror, less detail can be helpful to convey the fear of the unknown. I guess that a lack of detail can be useful for a mystery or to keep information secret to the readers while teasing them.

Then, when the monster is revealed, this is when I give a lot of details to reward my readers.

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Many stories on Wattpad suffer from the ‘lange halen snel thuis’ syndrome (sorry, Dutch expression :slight_smile: ). The author wants to tell his story, and get to the good bits fast.

I personally want flavor, fluff, grit. I want a believable world where nothing is easy, windows are broken, cars have scratches, the dog next door has a constipation, bicycles get stolen. In other words: a world that’s ‘lived in’.

So, unless you deliberately hide something from the reader it’s detail that I want…

I love reading extra detail if it’s done in certain ways.

Here’s an example of what I don’t like: “The shutters on the house are purple and the yard is clean.”

Here’s one example of what I do like (type of description): “Fresh paint on the lilac shutters sparkled under the sun, bordering primly cut rosebushes and perfectly mowed bright green grass.”

Here’s another example of what I do like (type of characterization): “A set of ugly plum shutters tower above me. I told my mother the color reminded me of rotten baby food, but she still bought them and I’d been forced to see them every day for the past sixteen years.”

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I do think that the amount of description depends on the story, but I have noticed that people either don’t give me enough details to build the world in my head or they give me too much. I read one story that from the information provided sounded like any other college campus and then she started referencing an evil queen and it threw me for a loop. I’ve also read description that is overly complicated which stalls the story. Unless critical to the story later on, I would rather read the phrase “a yellowed piece of paper” or “the old paper” before “the paper was yellow and thick and solid like XXX but also soft and crinkly like paper”.

I tend to prefer either simple, precise description or description that invokes another sense: taste, touch, sound, etc. Like tell me the air smells like cinnamon or an American 50’s theme dinner, it’s so oddly specific that I’ll make the connection in my head of what a place looks like

THIS!!! These are the types of descriptions that I love!!! The first one is so exact but it allows me to fill in more details in my head about what the house looks like. The second is the oddly specific reference that just sticks in your head. Now, I’m going to picture the ugliest shade of purple every time I think of the house!

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I can see where you are coming from for sure. I love getting a believable idea of what is going in the story but don’t let the descriptions stop the story. I read one piece where he did an excellent job describing the rest station that I lost track of what the actual plot line was.

@evensong123 I can agree that the author can’t meet everyone taste and there is often times when people think there is too much detail or too little, for instance when describing a monster like a goblin, to most people they already know and have an idea of what this goblin looks like, but to some people they may not know what a goblin is so the added detail may help them to be introduced to this ‘monster’ and its characteristics.

Sometimes people assume you know what they are talking about, what is totally fine if your readers are all familiar with the genre you are writing in, so they would be able to understand certain concepts that may be unfamiliar to newer readers.

I personally think explaining all the monsters is fine if you are building a ‘world story’ by world story I mean a story that relies alot on the world that the author makes up, to keep the interest of the readers, because you are making a world that the reader wants to get to know, so more detail.

Then when it comes to character stories, that rely a lot on character development (making the reader read the story because he/she wants to see what character does,) I think it is fine to gloss over the world and focus on what the characters do, so less detail.

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Me too! It’s a shame they’re much easier to read than they are to write :rofl:

Haha, it certainly does make it memorable! I find that a lot of the best Historical/Regency Romance books on here, in particular, do an excellent job of harnessing this descriptive power!

LOL :rofl: Reading this is like staring at my rough drafts…thank goodness for editing, lmao!

100% agree with this. Using all of the senses really deepens the scene and makes it more memorable!

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