Less is more, more or less

Less is more, more or less

A 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.

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Posted 8 Years Ago

"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."

Dude, word. lol.

Part of this article is like the old adage, "...you can't please all the people all the time..."

Balance is something I'm always struggling with. Another rule of thumb is if it's very well written, and done with an interesting perspective, it will be readable and engage your reader even if they don't like the genre or subject.

Tense. Since I never know what era I'm living in, and never wear a watch, I screw up my tense narration all over the place, whether in first person or third person. But I'm an idiot so it comes natural.

Lastly, is the redrafting and editing. I make a lot of punctuation and grammar mistakes. So I do a lot of rereading of my writing. Then I start considering what the sentences are actually saying and try to refine the intent and meaning of them. Then I pick out parts that are too long and address them. Then I read the dang thing aloud and see how it flows. Then another rewrite. All this because I'm not a good writer. Some people would consider that over kill. Somewhere within all that, you have to decide on when to put the piece to bed. Like an artist knowing when one more brush stroke will ruin the painting. With all the things in writing to consider, I struggle with bedtime. One of the easiest techniques I use at this stage is to let the piece set for a day or week or month or ..... forever... Then when returning to it, the problems jump out and the piece usually comes together fairly quickly after that.

..... wow, writing ain't easy. And I used to think writing was for wussies. My bad. hahaha.

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Mike Lamb
Mike Lamb

greenville, NC

Artist, 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..