By Laura M. Campbell
The whole concept of proportion, proportion of description in your writing, reminds me of The Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Cliché? Yes. On the other hand, it provides a familiar image everyone can picture no matter if you’re 16, 34 or 65. Is there too much description, not enough description, or is it just right?
When you sit down to write that story clawing to get out, it’s your job as the author to do it justice. Write the best story you can. Will it happen during the first draft? No, of course not. That’s what revisions, editing, critique groups and 2nd and 3rd drafts are for.
For example, you can tell which stories favor heavy description. They’re the ones that describe the hell out of something creating a very concrete image. Unfortunately, the interaction with the reader falls flat. They don’t have to include their own imagination because the story doesn’t leave room for it. It’s still a great story, but it can make it hard for the reader to really connect.
Some stories are so sparse with description that the reader spends more time trying to conjure up an image to help picture the scene they’re reading that they fall out of the narrative. The reader can easily put the novel down and do something else, like read someone else's novel.
Then there are those stories that balance the proportion of description. It’s just enough to trigger your memories or imagination so you can connect and feel like you’re part of the reading experience.
The latter is the hardest of them all to master. I’m all over the place. One minute I’m in a scene typing everything I can see in my head to the very last detail. Then my critique group reads it, and they feel a bit overwhelmed. On my next draft, I hold back on the description so much that my critique group can’t get into the scene.
Hair pulling commences and possibly a tantrum. I just keep telling myself to sit down to write everyday and keep in mind that I’m not going to find the perfect balance without trying everything first.
So, on your 1st or 2nd draft how do you handle description: too much, not enough or just right?