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Cephus
January 6th, 2003, 03:39 AM
This morning, I received the beginning of a friend's new book in e-mail to read. I'll say one thing for him, he's... descriptive...

The story starts with the main character pulling up in front of his house in his car. He gets out of the car 12 pages later. He describes *EVERYTHING*. The car. The house. The neighborhood. His clothes. You name it, he describes it. The problem is, the majority of it is completely unnecessary to the story.

I'm trying to come up with a good rule for how descriptive he should be and I can't come up with something that makes sense. Any ideas?

kahnovitch
January 6th, 2003, 03:52 AM
It's always good to have some background info on important characters in a story, but all that info at once will definitely comatise (if there is such a word) potential readers.
Besides we all know what cars, houses and general everyday objects look like so the Nth degree isn't needed to describe them especially when the setting is a modern one which we all live in day to day anyway.
Such level of description is even that necessary in Fantasy or Sci-fi as the vast majority or fans will know what sort of environment they are in.
If he's writing it as an exercise or just for fun etc, fair enough, but if it's an attempt as publication at some point, he definitely needs to edit it so it's more reader-friendly.

I, Brian
January 6th, 2003, 07:09 AM
I'm trying to come up with a good rule for how descriptive he should be

Anything with direct relevance to the plot and character would be a good start.

milamber_reborn
January 6th, 2003, 08:49 AM
Going by what you said, he should have been more gradual with the info, like having him get out before describing mroe about house and neighborhood. At least that way there is some progression.

I personally like to be descriptive, and some people would think my short stories aren't fast-paced enough, but I try to keep the flow going. You need to find a good balance. I once had a critique where someone told me 'For a new writer, you have the unusual ability of giving too much information.' Your friend will be in a good position with his writing once he learns to balance better.

Cephus
January 6th, 2003, 03:49 PM
Originally posted by I, Brian
Anything with direct relevance to the plot and character would be a good start.

Agreed. I only got 20 pages, so I guess it's possible that the shape of the instrument cluster in the car might be important later, but somehow I doubt it. ;)

computer
January 14th, 2003, 04:55 PM
Its just really a balance of info.

me personally I like to give the reader just enough information to keep them interested and generally keeping it fast paced-ish. but at times i do info-dump its just something a writer has to work around.

its like finding your "Wal" (centre of being)-fiest books

Chlestron
January 14th, 2003, 06:38 PM
I think that something should be described enough so that a reader knows what it is and whether or not it is significant. A car is a car, but if that Cadillac is important later then put a little bit of emphasis on it (i.e. calling it a silver Cadillac rather than a car). If EVERYTHING is described, then the reader has no way of knowing what's critical, what's background, and what's a red herring. I wouldn't be able to read that.

To make it worse, if something IS critical, I like to see it described when its critical, not have to remember what it looked like 20 pages ago where it was found in the middle of thousands of other things.

I am usually sparse on description myself unless something is unique and important in which case I'll describe it fully.

Stewart
January 14th, 2003, 10:07 PM
Les Miserables syndrome. Anyone who has read that book can to you that Victor Hugo had a lot of description. Too much! The first one hundred pages while interesting and well done all describe a character who afterwards is mentioned maybe a dozen more times throughout the next eleven hundred pages. The Battle of Waterloo, sixty pages and I never figured out how it fit into the story. The history of a convent takes forever to read. Now don't get me wrong, Les Miserables is an excellent book. But I would have enjoyed it much more were it not for the mountains of description.

Cephus
January 17th, 2003, 07:17 PM
Originally posted by Stewart
Les Miserables syndrome. Anyone who has read that book can to you that Victor Hugo had a lot of description. Too much! The first one hundred pages while interesting and well done all describe a character who afterwards is mentioned maybe a dozen more times throughout the next eleven hundred pages. The Battle of Waterloo, sixty pages and I never figured out how it fit into the story. The history of a convent takes forever to read. Now don't get me wrong, Les Miserables is an excellent book. But I would have enjoyed it much more were it not for the mountains of description.

I agree that he's gone completely overboard, but it's hard to say exactly how much is too much, especially since I've only read the first couple pages of his story.

In my own case, I was very concerned that I had put in too much description, but I had someone read the first 150 pages and they said they wanted to see MORE! Granted, my own story happens 1500 years in the future and people don't have the same kind of reference to make with present events, so I'm trying to decide what people need to know about and what's just fluff.

Drewby
January 22nd, 2003, 09:48 PM
I think description is good. When I read a book, it is like a movie in my mind. Everything playing and the description helps with that picture. However, if there is so much description that it takes away from the story or makes it boring, then it should be cut down on. Too much of a good thing is sometimes a bad thing.