I was talking to my writing buddy today at the coffee shop about show don’t tell in fiction. And it got me to thinking.
I have a problem with over description in my stories. I can just describe, describe, describe a scene in the most exquisite (and therefore exhausting) detail and be happier than a spanked monkey in a rainstorm. I love delving into detail. Minute detail. Tiresome detail. To the detriment of the quality, and salability, of my fiction.
Fortunately, I recognized this fault early on and made a move to address it. But it’s a constant battle. When I’m writing today I’m always aware of word count. I can look back on ten-thousand word stories I wrote ten or fifteen years ago and now see if I wrote them today they’d be half the length. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
To make her point my writing buddy was talking about Lord of the RIngs and how Tolkien went into detail of describing every blade of grass. It made her put the book down and lose interest, she said. But I loved that stuff in LOTR because it was scratching that description itch between my shoulder blades I constantly battle.
Ideally, there has to be a balance. I’m trying to find that balance in all my fiction, particularly the Haxan stories. In one of the stories I used a descriptor of how the moon was like an orange lantern in the sky. A couple of people said they really liked it. I liked it, too, but I remember sititng there when I wrote that wanting to tell how the light was playing on the desert and cactus, giving it an unearthly quality. You know. Go into minute detail. Slap the reader across the face with it. But I held back, recognizing that the original description of the moon as an orange lantern did that already.
Live and learn, right?
I’m not big on minimalism, either, but it has its place. When it’s done well it can be more effective than a dense block of descriptive text. It’s just hard to do, imo.
Even so I can’t help but remember a friend many years back who said to me, “Wow, you really know how to paint a picture. It’s one of your strengths. You’re very good at description.”
Me: “I know.”
Unfortunately, I’ve never gotten the humility thing licked.