Dissonance, Malcolm Stone, The Writer, Writing Process, Writing Samples

When is enough detail, enough?

Over the years, I have come across the same question while working on a project.  When I have given enough detail?  I wonder if I have portrayed my character well enough to describe his personality, or if my setting has enough descriptions to imagine it, or have I bored my reader to tears with too much descriptions at some point and then not enough at others?

This question came into play this past week.  I was snowed in at home and had finally gotten some motivation to pick Dissonance back up and work on some scenes.  I had gotten to an intimate scene between Malcolm and Emma.  It was a relatively straight forward love scene, but it took me hours to write it.  The scene was set drinking hot fragrant hot tea, fire crackling in the background, a plush lambskin rug on the floor, but then my writing froze.  When I write the scene playing in my head much like a movie, so this scene had some vivid detail, but I didn’t want to turn this love scene into something cheap.  I debated for a while, typed then erased what I had written, stared at the screen wonder why on earth I couldn’t finish this piece?

It all came down to how much detail do I add to this scene.  After debating for what seemed like an eternity.  I decided to add all the details and then edit some of the detail out later if it took away from or didn’t match the rest of the book.

During my rewrites and editing phases I will add in more detail or take some out if there is too much.  But how do I know if I have added enough detail?  I attempt to distance myself from my own writing and try putting myself in a reader’s shoes.  That approach only goes so far, eventually you need a third party to go over your project, be it an honest friend, beta-reader or editor to let you know if you have gotten the balance of detail correct.


My exercise of descriptive writing based on this photo:


The carefree butterfly fluttered from flower to flower looking for the succulent nectar in which to whet his appetite.  As the he gracefully floated through the sun beams, the brilliant blues and magnificent yellows stood out against the blackest of blacks of his wings.  The other butterflies gathered in the meadow were envious of his glory.  He flew with more grace than eagle.  His colors were more brilliant than even the majestic monarch.  He knew he was the king of the meadow.


7 thoughts on “When is enough detail, enough?”

  1. This reminds me of an interesting blog post by Victoria Grefer http://crimsonleague.com/2013/05/01/writers-whats-your-style-are-you-a-hemingway-or-a-faulkner/
    When reading her blog post I realised I am rather a Hemingway than a Faulkner. If I go into more detail, the reader automatically feels that this is relevant.
    If a Faulkner type does not provide the usual detailed description, the reader might draw quite different conclusions e.g. this is less important, the author allows me to imagine this myself, this is a trick – this might become important at a later date, etc.
    If a scene is important for you and/or important for your story, be as detailed as you want. Readers who appreciate details will devour the scene; readers who are no detail fans will hop through the scene anyway.
    We cannot always satisfy all readers secret wishes. Some will like our writing, others just won’t like it.
    As long as the author feels fine – she/he is authentic. And this really counts. 🙂


    1. Your comment rings so true to me. As long as I am true to myself if really all that matters. That statement also is part of what has influenced me to go the self publishing route, because I want to say the story is mine and not something that was once mine, but got turned into something popular to sell more books.


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