I wasn’t planning on writing about description today, until I found myself in a love-hate relationship this weekend. I picked up a new book and so far absolutely love the mystery part! Each chapter involving the mystery is oh-so-creepy-scary good. The problem is each of those chapters are sandwiched between three or four chapters of back stories and descriptions.
I long to know what happens next in the investigation, but instead find myself drowning in character history, wall by wall room layouts, detailed religious practices, character’s physical descriptions, and a long itemized list of objects that can be crammed into a community center. I feel like yelling, “Stop it!”
But as I stare at the cover reproachfully, I am aware that description level is a preference when it comes to readers. “How much is too much?” can be a subjective question.
I’ve suffered through writers who feel the need to do a complete and outright flat description of ever person met and every room entered. That is obviously bad writing, but I don’t think that’s the case I’m dealing with right now. The writing is actually very good and very colorful…there’s just too much! I know so much about the characters and their history, but the story has progressed so little.
So, as a reader, do you have a “description” threshold? Do you ever feel like there is too much? How about too little? Can a writer under-describe?
Jane Austen never told us much more than who was pretty and who was “tolerable I suppose,” but does that mean she was lacking something?
I’m asking you these questions today as fellow readers. Next time I’ll approach it from a writer’s perspective…because that’s a whole different can of worms. ;)
Btw, thanks ever so much to Elana Johnson for the contests she’s been running lately! They've not only been fun, but helpful to her fellow writers. :)