Less is more, more or lessA Lesson by Mike Lamb
Descriptions, details, other junk.
It takes a thousand words to make a picture by reverse logic. So when you're writing, you're faced with a unique problem. On one hand, you want to have lots and lots of beautiful pictures. On the other hand, they're all made of words. And people can only read so many pictures before they get bored. But without pictures they get lost.
Some considerations...what is the personality of your narrator? In other words, what sort of things would they find interesting? Landscapes? Architecture? Art? Music? Storms? Tits? Television? Cars? Shoes? Pictures of cats? Whatever it is, the more compelling they find it to be, the lengthier and more vivid their descriptions are likely to be for those things. On the other hand, things they find to be dull or overly complex will most likely be skimmed over. Just make sure that it comes across as intentional due to the narrator's lack of interest rather than the author's lack of knowledge.
Another factor...lengthy descriptions are most effective (at least in my experience) during slow parts with little action going on. First you give the readers a moment to soak in the ambience of the arena. Set the stage. Maybe allow a bit of calm introspection. But when the gate flies open and the lion comes sprawling out like a psychotic metaphor of your choosing, you need to get your f*****g head out of the clouds and focus on the lion. There's a time for technicolor daydreams and a time to say f**k poetry, we got bigger problems. Now, the severity of this method depends on whether or not you're using past or present tense. With past tense, the narrator is somewhat removed from the action, presumably able to recall the story from a safe location. With present tense, you are constantly in the moment. Circumstances determine mood, and mood determines tone, and tone dictates the priority level of any information given to the reader.
I personally prefer first person present tense for the simple fact that the narrator's mood and attention span is constantly changing throughout the story. There could be a scene with an overload of vivid descriptions of trivial things. Why? Because the narrator got bored in the absence of any action or dialogue, so he zoned out (while at the same time taking a moment to paint a lush picture of words to set the scene so that further description would be unnecessay later when the action picked up). At other times, the narrator speaks in quick, fragment sentences during action scenes to quickly get his point across at the speed it's occuring.
Often, people will read your work and tell you that you have too much or not enough information. With no context, this is irrelevant. Some people like wordy, others like staccato. I like both. The key is to know when one is more appropriate than the other.
Added on October 11, 2010
Last Updated on October 11, 2010
AboutArtist, writer, and a drunken lunatic prophet. I am the author of Jack's Inferno, a dark comedy bizarro/horror novel about Hell, previously published through Wordplague (now defunct). I am also a pro..