Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More Description? Can’t I Just Draw You a Picture?

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, know that I like to analyze the crap out of everything. So, it’s only logical that I’ve determined what I deem to be my biggest weakness when it comes to writing.

I love to write dialogue, but I think that’s because dialogue is relatively easy for me. But description? Just the thought makes all my creative functions shut down. Writing description requires me to think, and where’s the fun in that?

It’s my opinion that if you’re setting is relatively commonplace—a bedroom, a kitchen, a park, whatever—it doesn’t need to be described in detail, or even at all, unless it’s vital to the storyline. Most people can conjure up some image without a description. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but this is how I rationalize my minimalist approach to setting description. :)

Besides, my novel is already 10,000 words too long, according to all the word count Nazis out there, so more description would only add to that. So, I use that rationalization too.

To be honest, when I’m reading, if I can conjure up an image without it, sometimes I’ll just skip the description. I like to read about the characters, not the setting. Just my personal preference.

So, I’m wondering. What’s your take on this? Do you love to write beautiful setting descriptions? Do you think it’s an integral part of every scene, or do you think it’s unnecessary sometimes?


  1. i'm like you - i can write pages of dialogue, but don't ask me to describe something unless it's absolutely necessary (or if it's a kissing scene!). and don't ask me to draw it either. when i read, i skip long descriptions because they're boring. i just want the story.

  2. LOL I actually have the opposite problem. I tend to write pages of description that I end up cutting. In my first book, I literally had 4 PAGES describing the interior of a house. Ummm, can we say overkill? :D

    Now for the really confusing part - I don't always enjoy doing so. Sometimes it just bores me. And if it's boring me while I'm writing it, it's going to bore someone reading it :) But, I still find myself doing it - the descriptions either just come out or I start describing my butt off feeling the need to really let the reader know what I'm seeing in my head.

    However, I also tend to skim large chunks of description in novels. So why do I write them? Who knows. I am trying desperately to break myself of the habit :D Good thing for crit buddies who tell what I can ax :D

  3. I'm anti-description too. I usually skim long descriptive passages when I'm reading because I think they slow down the story. I care about people not things.

  4. I have no problem working descriptions into my narrative, but dialogue never comes naturally to me. Maybe we should work on that together, lol!

  5. I'm a minimalist when it comes to description, too. I often skip over lengthy descriptions in the books I read. I've been told by my crit partners I need to describe my characters more, though. I can see this to a certain extent, but I also think readers are smart and can conjure up their own image. It's definitely something to think about.

  6. MG: Dialogues rules! And kissing scenes, too. Of course. :)

    MM: Maybe you just need to get the scene set in your mind and that's why you feel compelled to do it? And good crits buddies are the BEST!

    Natalie: I agree that long passages of description slow down the story. And even when I don't skim, I rarely remember the details of a setting anyway.

    Tere: So how would that work? I email you a line of dialogue, then you email back a line (or paragraph ;D) of description, then I email another couple lines of dialogue, and then... We could have a whole novel in like ten years. And it would be awesome, too! :) Maybe that's why you're such a great crit buddy for me. Two halves of a whole. Aw, how special. :)

    LW: I'm glad I'm not the only one who skims. And you've hit on a good point about character description. I think I'll post on that tomorrow. :)

  7. I only like description in books I read if the room/place is extremely beautiful, weird, or spooky.

    I think descriptions are kind of like knick knacks. If you have just one it can be fun or sparkly, but if your desk is covered in them, it just looks junky and you can't see the individual pieces through the pile.

    Good point about it being boring to read if it's boring to write! :P

  8. I think too much scene description can take the reader out of the story. But, used sparingly, it can also be a useful way of providing a clue to a character's personality.

  9. We could have a whole novel in ten years.

    LOL, that sounds about right!

    (And thanks for the ego boost.)

  10. I am so with you on this! I don't like writing description either and I tend to skip it when reading. I'd rather give readers just the basics of the setting and let their imaginations fill in the details. Although from what I've heard about fans of TWILIGHT they *love* Meyer's lengthy descriptions. Maybe young readers don't have the vivid imaginations we do and aren't able or don't like to fill in descriptive gaps?

  11. Becca: Great comparison. Down with knick knacks! Just kidding. ;D

    Jane: Good point. I've never thought of it revealing something about the character.

    Tere: Any time, my friend. :)

    MC: I think a lot of it's just style and people expect that from SMeyer. Or maybe they just don't realize they don't need all that description, and they just need a great book with a more minimalist approach to show them. :) I don't know. It's definitely something to think about.