Monday, September 20, 2010

I don’t do detail

I was advised recently that I needed to do more world building; that I needed to let myself go, let the words flow and build pictures; all those sensory things that I’m told will draw the reader into the story.

It’s not the first time I’ve been told this. The wonderful Melissa James reviewed some of my work a while back and said the same thing.

So I am about to start revising my latest work and add some detail.

Trouble is, when it comes to detail, I always err of the side of not too much; mostly because I personally don’t read the detail in books. Whenever a paragraph starts with: ‘The house was...’, The landscape seemed...’, His hair was...’, I skip it. My interest is in the character; what they do next, what they feel, why they feel it. Where they are when they’re feeling it hardly matters to me.

So this is my dilemma. I don’t like the detail, so I don’t want to inflict it on my readers.

Does anyone else struggle with this? Or maybe you love the detail. Do tell. And any hints on where I can read more about this.


  1. I know what you mean - there's a fine line between giving too much detail, and not having enough info for the reader to visualise the the story. I wish I knew the answer! Can't help you there (sorry!) but would love to hear how other people tackle this.

  2. Hey Jenn, I'm one that probably can put more detail but like you I'm interested in actions and the characters. Still I've tried to add things to set up the scene and through a scene too. I like people building their own picture too without describing everything.

    One thing is put more detail but detail you are interested in maybe. Hmmm...toughie. Good luck with your quest.

  3. Jenn, I think the trick is to drip it in. If you hit the reader with a long paragraph giving that descriptive detail you might lose them. But if you use the descrition to add something to the story (often introspection) or if you have a gorgeous sentence in the middle of action it can be so effective. Think about an emotional moment for the heroine, who turns to the waterlogged window as rain drums against the glass to compose herself. You could turn a great description of the view/rain/window into the moment - and I bet you'd read it.

    My 2c anyway.

  4. I don't like too much detail, but I like to have a scene set. So, I like to know the colour of the heroine's hair and eyes. And I like to know where she lives - it can't be in a vacuum. Don't go over the top - that's really boring. But as Anita said, do it subtly so before the reader knows it they have a strong sense of character and place.

    That's my bit.

  5. I get in to detail when i come across an interesting line or word, else i skip like you. Good post. I enjoyed reading it.