View Full Version : Detail in Stories
March 24th, 2001, 08:51 PM
I wanted to discuss a little about detail.
I find i write a story from what i personally like, and i dont like alot of detail.
I love reading fantasy and horror but if a book as lots of detail i find myself scanning forward to the next bit of action as such. I did this a lot with Tolkien, even though i really liked the story, i found the detailed parts a bit much.
Can anyone please explain why there is so much detail in fantasy stories.
March 25th, 2001, 05:21 AM
I think because a fantasy writer tries to present a diffrent world to us, and s/he needs to write many things to accoplish this -to make the world living, by presenting every ditail about it.
Personaly, I think world building must by writen in interesting parts, when the reader wants to know whats is happens, so he/she will not get bored...
March 26th, 2001, 04:10 AM
The stories that I start to read and then put down and never finish are the ones what go into great detail about family names and lineages. Enough of that. When you start to get parts of the story that branch off into chapters on the history of one person...
Drak Stormbringer, son of Uthal Oriminger of the Seven Mountains, begat of Lindsa Sadagava, High Priestess of ... blah blah blah.
I personally don't read fantasy books. Never got into the 'dungeons and dragons' thing, went Sci-fi instead (that includes for RPGs).
I agree. I like the story to move forward quickly and interestingly without a lot of detail to bog it down. I want a story, not a verbal description of six family trees and how they integrate with each other.
March 26th, 2001, 07:16 AM
It all depends on how the detail is presented. Lots of authors use the "Infodump" method, which is paragraph after paragraph of really boring explaination and/or description.
There are better ways to give the reader all the necessary background details. It's a hard problem to work around, especially in fantasy or sf, because the reader needs explanations and details to ground the story. The best authors try to intersperse detail throughout the narrative rather than dumping it on the reader all at once. When more information is needed, sometimes the author will use a creative infodump, like a journal entry (e.g., the Encyclopedia Galatica in the Hitchhicker's Guide) or set the characters up in situations where they have to explain details to each other, and hence, to the reader. I think the most problems people have with visual stories isn't the detail, it's the way the detail is presented to the reader that can be tiresome.
March 26th, 2001, 08:24 AM
Well, I wasn’t originally going to post but after reading the responses I thought I’d throw my 2 cents in.
I like a wide variety of literature. Among books, I like authors as varied as Robert Jordan, Piers Anthony, and Gael Baudino. All of these authors have very different writing styles and use detail differently. Which method is better? I suppose it would depend on whether you were asking from a readers perspective or a literary perspective. Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” is probably one of the most notoriously boring books ever written due to the extensive detail on fishing (and no, I haven’t read it). However literary critics have held it up as a classic for decades. On the flip side is Piers Anthony. Most of his books are short and have very little detail. Although these books are vastly popular and sell fairly well, it is unlikely that teachers will add these books to the list of required reading.
As far as we are concerned as amateur writers, the amount of detail to include in our stories can be difficult to grasp, especially for new writers who are trying to develop a unique writing style. It is tempting to either tell the reader everything or skip over everything. But there is a balance, it’s just a matter of finding that balance. Does the reader need to know that the inn keeper was abandoned as a child and worked at a number of questionable jobs before securing his dream of owning an inn? Probably not. Does the reader need to know that the main character had a traumatic event occur that keeps her from fully trusting her traveling companions? Very likely as it would help explain the characters continued distrust.
But then, that is the art of writing. Being able to give the reader the information they need AND entertain them at the same time.
March 26th, 2001, 02:06 PM
Well, this actually comes down to personal preference. Literature has evolved over the eons, and one of major changes has been dialogue versus description.
Currently, literature shies away from the over-flowery descriptive novels of the vicorian era (read Moby Dick and the chapters on the Etomology of Whales and tell me if Melville over does it). Tolkien, writeng in the early part of the 20th century, leans slightly to the more descriptive side, but even yet is considered one of the only writers in the fantasy genre to be Classically Correct literature.
Still, modern literature, particularly fantasy tends to be pop-culture writing such as Eddings, Goodkind, Brooks, etc. These are the writers who create their stories as if they are writing screenplays rather than novels. Is it wrong? Not at all. Will it endure as has Tolkien? Not likely. These new writers (every generation has them, they are talented and successful)are writing with the idea of how these books would appear oin screen- hand feed only what the reader needs to know to move on in the story without trying to flush out a serious 3-dimensional plot. They are based on the readers' affiliation or feelings of affinity with the characters, not with the overall story.
This isn't bad or childish writing, it's simply pop-culture. We, like it or not, live in a "now" culture where the ornate gives way to the inexpensive, where art suffers at the hand of entertainment. It's the way of the world. There will be a return of classic literature, as we've been down this cycle before, many times. untile then, just read what you enjoy.
March 27th, 2001, 08:17 AM
Thanks for an enlightening post, Wastra.
I agree with you wholeheartedly, We live in a fast food society and get bored quickly by books which are too elaborate. For example, critics said that the Dragonlance Chronicles are shallow, simplistic books. These aren't noble prize literature works, yet they are fast paced, highly imaginative and entertaining, what else does one need?
that doesn't mean I myself backaway from more "heavy" stuff, I read Tolkien and Bram Stoker's Dracula, to name a few.
but generally, in our currently hectic world, lighter books will always be more popular.
I just remembered a fantastic, epic novel about king Arthur, "The Mists Of Avalon", by Marion Zimmer Bradley. here's a great example for a truly detailed fantasy read, which IMHO, never gets boring.
[This message has been edited by lior (edited March 27, 2001).]
March 27th, 2001, 10:04 AM
I hate critics!!
March 30th, 2001, 05:10 AM
I agrree with the MZB, Mists of Avalon post, Lior. I read it a few years ago (7-8 years ago maybe?). It is fantastic, and a defeinite original twist on the tried-and-true King Arthur story. I suppose it DID help somewhat that the 3-dimensional world in the book was a real wrold based on historical data and mythical folklore. Still, the book is fantastically written and certainly one of hte more underrated of modern fantasy works.
March 30th, 2001, 07:09 AM
Turner Broadcast (TNT) is making a TV miniseries of Mists of Avalon that is due to show this summer sometime. There's some info about it on the Turner website.
And I'm going to watch it even though I think the book is one of the campiest things ever written. http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif
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