It’s All in the Details

April 6, 2011

A few weeks ago, I told you about my recent experience with writer’s block caused by trying to plot my synopsis before writing it, and that my husband told me to read my old manuscript about Angella, written without any actual pre-plotting. Anyway, this has nothing to do with either writer’s block or plotting. It has to do with the details that you write…or at least the details that I write!

I hadn’t picked up Angella’s manuscript in years, so it was fresh to me. I love that manuscript, and eventually I’d like to get back to work on Angella’s story. But as I read the manuscript I was looking at it with my writer’s eye, and what I saw was a lot of detail. It’s all relevant, and it gives you a clear picture of Angella’s life. I really like my detailed description of Angella’s childhood home. I like the details that I wrote in a scene from her childhood that her show still innocent and childlike personality. I like the description of the city where she lives, and the time that she lives in…

But how much of that detail is necessary, and how much just slows the plot down? Does it vary from story to story? Angella’s story is definitely not a category romance. It’s a little dark, probably more than a little twisted, and I’d categorize it as a mainstream novel.

Randi’s story, the one I’m working on now, is a category romance. This book won’t be nearly as long when finished as Angella. As I write, I don’t use the same kind of detail that I did in Angella…and yet, I love the story. I love the character. I love her city, and I think there is the right amount detail for the story I’m telling…we’ll see if an editor agrees with me!

So what about you? How much detail do you put into your writing? Do you give details about the arrangement of a room, your hero or heroine’s hobbies, or the town they live in? Where do you draw the line on detail?


2 Responses to “It’s All in the Details”

  1. I was just thinking about this the other day. I probably give more detail about emotions than I do about surroundings. When it’s absolutely critical to the plot or the mood of the story, I will go into greater detail about furnishings or clothing, etc., but I’m not naturally inclined to do so.

    I think this hurt my writing early on. The first agent I submitted to requested a partial, but her response to my first three chapters and synopsis was that I needed to work on atmosphere. I’m thinking she meant for me to get the details working for my story.

    It’s an interesting thought. Just because a story’s longer doesn’t necessarily mean it should be filled with detail to take up space. And yet, detail is critical to the reader’s experience. I wish there was a formula (non-fiction writer thinking here) to know when enough is enough.

  2. KimberlyFDR Says:

    I put just enough detail as is relevant to the story. The novel I’m writing now only explores certain character characteristics and even then it’s when it’s immediately connected to the plot, not just a listing of “this is the complete visual picture of who this is.” I find letting the reader’s imagination create the character in their mind allows for greater freedom.

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