How much description is too much?

This is a question that doesn’t really come easy. It’s a fine line to tread between how much description is too much or when it is too little or just right.

It depends on writer to writer, although there should be rough guidelines that there is too much or knowing how to cut it down to size.

Writing descriptions need not be down to every detail, it’s a picture. You don’t need to tell them everything about it, or about the clothes. Enough to give a clue but don’t constantly be about it.

Readers these days are a lot less patient for the exceptionally long description pages of the past where it might have been welcome. And going down to such detail doesn’t always mean it is adding something to your work.

It is best when it serves a purpose and honestly I don’t really feel as though it is necessary to be describing just what is in the room when it is not important.

Even more so, is that the reader should be able to imagine it on their own. And mostly the writing should serve that, not really dictating what happened down to the last detail.

And as Stephen King said,

Description should begin in the writer’s imagination and ends in the reader’s imagination

Readers don’t really like to be told, even for things such as description. And in some cases, when the descriptions is used for a good purpose but tended to go further into detail than it is necessary.

As readers, we all believe that each passage should serve a purpose. A really important purpose. And it creates an expectation.

When this expectations is shattered when it doesn’t live up, will disappoint the reader.

This is the case when you spent the time to read about a lengthy description a button or even a brooch. Only to find that it isn’t necessary.

How would you feel? Not very happy about it right.

Because we like things to be highlighted or focused upon if it is important. Otherwise it becomes drudgery, where we would have to wade through to get to the main things. And that can make a reader lose interest.

So for me description is something that mostly enhances your story but also detracts the experience if used incorrectly especially when it’s too much or too little. Too little and we don’t have a clear idea what is happening, too much and it feels rather long winded.

2 thoughts on “How much description is too much?

  1. Great tip. I think some writers get distracted by physical description (how the character looks), and forget that habits, mannerisms, and personalities are other ways to differentiate a character in the readers mind.

    1. Certainly and thank you. I use them more than physical description. And I still stand by the rule that characters are who they are because of their personality. Not what they’re wearing. And always tailor their clothing to their personality.