How much detail?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Queshire, Feb 15, 2012.

  1. Queshire

    Queshire Dark Lord

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    One thing I find I often have trouble doing is deciding on how much details I should describe in my stories, I mean I know the details are important for telling the story, but I don't want to go overboard and fall into purple prose.

    So how much detail should I go into when describing what my characters see, hear, etc?
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    In a new scene, I usually give myself one paragraph to create an interesting setting. Sometimes it turns out long and I break it in two. Then I move into the story, making sure that dialogue has some kind of action along with it, and that action has some kind of occasional dialogue.

    I include whatever I want in the paragraph, and sometimes need to invent detail to pace the setting. Sometimes I insert a paragraph to explain something. That's about it.
     
  3. Codey Amprim

    Codey Amprim Staff Article Team

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    http://mythicscribes.com/forums/world-building/992-fleshing-out-important-structures.html
    http://mythicscribes.com/forums/writing-questions/950-when-its-too-much-too-little-descriptions.html

    Here are two threads I made up awhile back, and I think they'd be of some use to you. What I've come to realize is that I shouldn't worry all too much about specific details - it's better to let the reader's imagination feel unencumbered. Obviously important things should be given special attention, but a relatively unimportant setting (which is kind of an unheard thing in fantasy) shouldn't be given too much attention.

    My technique is to drop little pieces of the setting here and there, especially during points where there is little action or plot development. Instead of info-dumping, I info-sprinkle. :)

    Hope I helped.
     
  4. The Grey Sage

    The Grey Sage Lore Master

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    Cody's idea of info sprinkle is a good one. So often I see a character walk into a room, then describe everything in it. Now granted, this isn't always bad, but the majority of times it hurts to read. In real life do you really take in every detail of a room you entered? No. So don't write that way. I would say info dumps are only appropriate in 2 situations. First is when introducing a character through their surroundings. For example, a store manager is late for a meeting, while waiting for him the person who called the meeting takes in his office in detail. Why is this ok? Because they're sitting in a room with nothing to do but observe things about the manager via his office and its contents! The only other situation I can think of, is when the main character has been moved from comfortable surroundings to a new place. Naturally they will be hyper-aware, because everything is new! Hope those examples helped and clarified some.
     
  5. Codey Amprim

    Codey Amprim Staff Article Team

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    A few other dump-friendly situations I would deem tolerable:

    Introducing a new concept or thing that is important to culture, plot, or world building.

    Describing a room or area that a major event occurs in, especially if it is outlandish or unknown to the character.

    Again, everything can be info-sprinkled, but there are some instances where the dump is almost vital.

    Just use good judgment... With everything.
     
  6. Benjamin Clayborne

    Benjamin Clayborne Dark Lord

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    I've read a number of huge-selling books that have info-dumps in them. An info-dump here and there is not a problem, especially if the author's prose is good enough to even make an info-dump interesting. One technique I've noticed is that the character who is thinking about, or being introduced to the dump, is commenting about it as it's being introduced. Instead of "Flegnars are enormous green four-armed monsters found in the Crushfang Hills," you could have "Gennaro had learned about Flegnars. Enormous, smelly, green, four-armed monsters that lived in the Crushfang Hills. He hoped he never met one."
     
  7. sashamerideth

    sashamerideth Scribal Lord

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    I think a lot depends on the narrator and how (s)he relates events. If I were narrating a new scene that I had just walked in to, it wouldn't be so much an infodump as relating things as they caught my attention. For some of us, that wouldn't be a lot. My head is on a swivel thanks to my dad and self defense training, so I would notice the rogue in the corner, the man oogling me from two tables over, etc. Others might not see them until the rogue moves or the oogling man makes an obscene comment.
     
  8. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Dark Lord

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    Take a look at how some of your favorite authors approached it. When and how much detail did they include? How did they incorporate it into the story? See how they succeeded, how it would work with your story and style of writing and go for it.

    Get the basics down and revise later.
     
  9. Androxine Vortex

    Androxine Vortex Shadow Lord

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    I read this one novel and I stopped reading it jsut because of the amount of useless detail the author gave me (and the story had a great plot to it!) I am not kidding when I say that he went on for almost two pages describing a room. It wasn't even like a throne room it was just a room that the MC was living in. Details make or break stories. They give spice to your plot and make it even more fun and enjoyable to read, but nobody likes somebody else cramming all of their ideas into your head. No matter how many details you put into something, the reader will pretty much always have a different vision of it in their mind so don't stress too much on it. I sometimes like it when authors leave out details so it sort of gives the reader to imagine it however they like (just don't leave out the important ones!)
     
  10. Queshire

    Queshire Dark Lord

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    Here's an example from the story I'm writing of my main character describing seeing another major character for the first time. What do you guys think about the detail I put in?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Grumbling I continued on my way when a girl walking a few feet ahead of me caught my attention. She was about my age and looked like one of those stereotypical “all-american” girls from a 50s sitcom. Her dark brown hair was worn short and flipped up at the ends. She was wearing a dress that looked like it was ripped right from an episode of “I Love Lucy,” and her eyes strangely looked almost yellow in the afternoon light. Actually, she was kind of cute... Ah! Not that it was just her looks that grabbed my attention!
    It was the way she was acting that was more suspicious. At first I thought she was merely a tourist, as strange as THAT was, considering the only tourist-y thing in town was the National Creamed Corn Museum. She had that vacant, wide-eyed stare and slow, meandering walk you only see on a tourist. However, she acted like this was her first time out in modern civilization. She oooed and ahhed at one of those cheap, neon, “moving” signs in a bar window, she actually stopped and tried to read the graffiti lining the stores, and she litterally jumped three feet the first time a car sped down the street.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Also, what do you think about the details I used? I'm worried that it may be too cliche / Mary Sue-ish.
     
  11. sashamerideth

    sashamerideth Scribal Lord

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    A bit mary sue but not enough to worry in my opinion. Maybe draw it out a bit more, there is a bit too much telling in the second paragraph. Otherwise, sounds good.
     
  12. Queshire

    Queshire Dark Lord

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    what do you mean by telling? And how should I draw it out more?
     
  13. Queshire

    Queshire Dark Lord

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    Sorry for the double post but....

    Anyways, I re-wrote that paragraph description, here's what I have now;

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ‘Of course that might not be a bad thing,’ I thought as a car honk broke me out of my reverie.
    Glaring in the general direction of the offending car, I saw a shocked looking girl sitting on the side of the road. Did she almost just get run over? I know I’d be pretty freaked out if that happened to me.
    There was something... odd about her. Her hair and clothes were several decades out of style, like she only had old TV shows to base them off of, and as I watched, she suddenly started laughing. It wasn’t hysterical laughter or anything, but the type of generally amused chuckle you might get after hearing a joke. She then got up and started walking down the sidewalk, as if nothing had happened. At first I thought she was just a tourist, she had the wide-eyed vacant stare of one, but something told me that it was more then that....
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    What do you guys think?
     
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