Writing Tip #1–How Much Detail Should Writers Use?
When it comes to writing great fiction, less is often more. Think of modifiers and detail like perfume. Perfume can be lovely, sexy, attractive, and make one irresistible. It can also give others a headache or an asthma attack and have them looking for the closest
Comb through your prose and look for adverbs. When possible, replace them with stronger verbs.
She stood quickly out of the chair.
She bolted from her chair.
Look for redundant adverbs.
He yelled loudly.
Um…no, duh. How else would he yell? Softly?
Not all adverbs are evil. Adverbs are fine when they denote some quality that is not inherent in the definition of the verb.
She whispered conspiratorially.
When it comes to character descriptions, you aren’t talking to a police sketch artist. Give the basics and let the reader fill in the rest. Trust your reader’s imagination to be far better than anything you can supply. Think of it this way, when your book is one day made into a movie, casting will be far easier :D.
Adjectives—Handle with Care
Like adverbs, try to use adjectives sparingly and only when they are truly going to punch up a sentence. Avoid adjectives your reader would automatically supply on her own.
It was a dark night.
Ok. Glad you told us that night was DARK. Our brain doesn’t need holding, really. We are not stupid.
It was an evil night, a night of reckoning.
Oooooh, oh. I can go with this. See how the adjectives hint at the story instead of stating the obvious?
Details Can Negatively Affect Pacing
We do need some details. Few things annoy me more than having no idea about the setting, or what people look like, but…
If we spend three paragraphs describing the weather and the setting, this gives readers a chance to see something shiny and then you are OOH! SQUIRREL!
We are in an increasingly ADD world and need to appreciate the reader of the Digital Age. Yes, use detail, but spread it throughout the story. Big chunks of detail get boring very quickly to everyone but the writer.
Imagine this scenario. You can’t wait to watch a movie. The opening scene is of a breathtaking sunrise, the most beautiful sunrise you’ve ever witnessed in the history of sunrises, but the camera just focuses on the sun rising over the mountains, and rising, and *yawn* more rising…for the next FIFTEEN minutes. You would be throwing popcorn at the screen.
Loads of detail heaped together have the same affect.
When We Modify Everything, We Modify Nothing
Too much detail/too many modifiers are like a person speaking/shouting in monotone. Remember Billy Mays, the Oxy Clean guy, and EVERYTHING WAS EQUALLY LOUD AND IMPORTANT?
When we modify everything, we modify nothing. Use detail/modifiers sparingly and purposefully so that readers can more easily enjoy why they bought your book in the first place…for the story.