How much detail is too much?

Ok, I’m writing this post as a reader, not a pretentious writer who thinks they know everything. I don’t.

There’s a fine line between enough and too much description. Too little and there’s no mental picture for the reader. Too much and you’ve lose me, which also means no mental picture.

As a reader, I would take quality over quantity any day of the week. For instance, with a list of like ten architectural details, my brain shuts down after like three. Whatever sets the room or the building apart from other places is what sticks in my mind. Mood, tone, color, decoration, action, a comparison to something I might have seen in real life.

Think of it as a dream place. When I recall the weird places my brain has conjured up while I’m sleeping, I don’t remember every little detail. I remember the important bits, the character or the feel. Whatever I interacted with directly and how it related to what I was doing. Really, that would apply to anywhere I’ve been, not just in dreams, but dreams are sometimes more like books than reality, I think.



8 comments on “How much detail is too much?

  1. That’s always a tough one as a writer. Finding that sweet spot of detail is sometimes like playing darts with a blindfold. You think you’ve told enough, but people are confused. Then you say more and people get bored with the extended description.

    • RLDraws says:

      Agree! Do you ever wish you could read your work like a stranger would read it? That would be like the best writer superpower ever!

      • That would be amazing. To be able to turn off your memory of the book whenever you read it would make things so much easier. I could record myself arguing with myself (reader me Vs writer me) and post the fights on Youtube for added marketing. 😉

      • RLDraws says:

        Lol, that would be quite entertaining.

  2. I’m with you. I need maybe 3 characteristics. After that NOTHING sticks.

    • RLDraws says:

      LOL, yes, my eyes start to glaze over. I started to read something by Oscar Wilde once, I think it might have been The Picture of Dorian Gray, and he just went on and on. The writing was good, but I ended up putting the book down. Get on with the story already!!

  3. amberskyef says:

    I generally tend to describe what I know readers won’t be able to imagine themselves–like a country that doesn’t exist. But I do my best not to create lists out of my details. I make them very character involved, as in the character’s mood determines how he/she views the thing he/she is looking at. But I write in first person, so either my descriptions are character or action oriented. They are never just static or dull lists.

    • RLDraws says:

      Yeah, I have as tendency to gravitate toward lists in my descriptions, too. I’m trying to move away from it, giving each description kind of a theme so the sentences all work together. I stop and think hard about what I’m writing, more so than in the past.

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