What Say Ye?: Details

New post series! Woohoo!

In my What Say Ye? Series I’m going to ask you, my wonderful readers, a question. Because I’m very curious. I’ll post the question, then give my own thoughts, then you post your thoughts in the comments and we’ll have a great dialogue! Doesn’t that sound so civil and enlightening??

So this week’s (meh, we’ll see if this is a weekly thing) question: How do you feel about little details? Obviously, we all want some of them. But how much do you like when reading? Do you put that amount in your own writing?

Per examplo (that’s a language, right?), I read a book last year in which the author threw in all sorts of little details. The color of a vegetable peeler, for example. Or exactly what a friend’s make-up looked like. I’m all for details, because they make writing richer, fuller. They give the story texture, and it’s great. But it needs to serve a purpose. I really don’t care what color someone’s vegetable peeler is. This book I read had LOTS of random details along those lines, to the point that they distracted me.

But here’s the thing about vegetable peelers. If someone doesn’t have a vegetable peeler, that could tell me something about them. They don’t cook much, they can only afford the basics for cooking, they don’t eat many vegetables. Now we’re getting somewhere. Every bit of writing in your book should serve some kind of purpose, and the best serve multiple (character development, plot movement, etc.). Texture not only enriches the world of the story for the reader, but tells the reader something. So I’m all for that kind of texture–reading it and writing it. But if I keep hearing what color random objects around the house are, I’m going to get annoyed.

Related to this is the discussion of character appearances, but I think that can be split into its own post. And also, it gives me one more post idea. ^_^

So! What level of detail do you like to read/write? Are they the same?

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I write speculative fiction inspired by mythos from around the world, complex family dynamics, and my own experiences living with mental illness. After earning my BA in Linguistics from Brigham Young University in 2008, I received my MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College in 2012. I live in Denver, where my husband and I spend countless hours chasing our three young sons (and sometimes catching them!). I collect tarot decks, dye my hair mermaid colors, and procrastinate by decorating my home. My debut novel, Feathers Sharp as Knives, releases on May 2, 2023.

8 thoughts on “What Say Ye?: Details

  1. …I laughed. Am I gonna burn in hell now?

    Details… hmm, I’m happy with the absolute minimum. I like to get a taste for something and leave the rest up to my imagination. Too much detail and I may drift off ^^; My attention span is not great.

    1. We’ll be there together there!
      In hell, that is. Laughing.

      I’m a big fan of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. All of the fans like to poke fun at his over-descriptiveness. He’ll seriously spend a whole page describing a room. It used to get on my nerves, but in the later books I pass over the descriptions with a fond smile, because that’s just how he writes.
      I’m rarely that forgiving though.

      1. My eldest brother loves that series too!

        Lord of the Rings springs to mind. I have read them, but woooooow it took a lot of willpower to get through them. The upside was the films looked exactly as I imagined them because of Tolkien’s descriptions

  2. I think I’m closer to your Robert Jordan comment when I read the Harry Potter books: the first time through, I did not need that level of detail and found myself skipping ahead to get into the action. But after they’d become a beloved read, I would read those passages as a way to discover new depths. But I never reread the pages upon pages of Harry angsting. Boring and tiresome.

  3. I suppose the color of a vegetable peeler could be used to reveal something about a character, too, although from the context of this post I’m guessing it didn’t.

    I like lots of detail, but there’s a point where it does become too much. This was my main issue with THE HOBBIT and much of Tolkien’s work when I was younger; I didn’t care that much about what Bilbo’s home looked like. But I do like when descriptions help me visualize what the author had in their head as writing. I probably write a little less detail than I’d like to read sometimes, at least when it comes to settings and the like. I describe characters a bit more.

  4. When it comes to details, for me, there is a balance. I don’t need to know the color of everything or have the full description of how a room or someone looks when I read.

    But I do think that using details in one’s writing can give an added layer to a story told in first person or close third. What details a character chooses to focus on can be a great way to reveal more about that character. People notice, and are irritated by, different things.

  5. I like details that develop a key scene; color, sound, voice inflection, texture, visual and tactile. I also like details that clarify, allowing a clear understanding.

    (just a little note here; per examplo I have no idea, but if you meant por ejemplo that would be spanish)

  6. For me, I think it’s less about how much detail there is than how well it’s done. If the writer has a new way of looking at things or a poetic voice, than it works. Otherwise, not. Great idea for a series!

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