Description in a Novel




Another post I see a lot when cruising the various boards is “What is too much description?” While description is necessary to a novel, it also slows down you pace. So, when you’re writing your novel and you go ahead and write two pages of description, ask yourself: Is this necessary?

The key is to give them just enough description to be drawn into the story, but not enough to keep them from using their imagination. Now, I can hear what you’re saying. “But..but..what about showing versus telling?” While you want to mix showing AND telling into your novel, there’s no point in taking a page to describe a room. It get’s boring to a reader and also slows your story down to a crawl. There’s a quote, believe it or not given his writing, from King on this:

“In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.”
― Stephen KingOn Writing

A big problem, and one I too had to overcome, is being in love with your own words. Too many writers don’t want to cut down their description “because it won’t show the world to the reader.” If you feel that you need to give them every little tidbit then you’re insulting your reader!!! They aren’t so stupid that they can’t piece together the information you left out! Have a little faith in them. Second, when I hear folks say: “I just finished my first novel and it’s 300k words long,” I know they’re in love with their words. Unless you’re trying to write War and Peace, no novel needs to be that long-especially if you’re a new writer.

Also, and you can’t skip this step, description isn’t something that you just learn how to do. Only by reading great novels, learning from them, and writing your own work will you improve in the situation. I’ll leave you with one last quote from King:

“Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”
― Stephen KingOn Writing

Happy writing and good luck!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s