Choose Your Details

Another of my takes on the sporadic series, Evanovich - How I Write.

Yeah, I know, it's been, eesh, how many months? But I think this is as good a time as any to go back to this book.

Someone asked Ms. Evanovich how much detail should be used when describing settings. My take is that you shouldn't over-describe, or eyes will start a-glazin'.

Ms. Evanovich agrees. Here's a little more of what she has to say:
The reader doesn't need more than a few details when reading about a character or setting. For example, if your character walks out of his apartment house, pulls up the collar of his coat, and goes searching through the pockets for his gloves, you don't have to tell us it's freezing outside. -pg. 50

Exactly. Why have the character think, or have another character say, "Jeez, it's frickin' cold out here." Duh. ;-) Use the smallest, simplest amount of words to get your point across.

And you don't have to describe every single step a character takes; we're not talking about a how-to manual here. If you skip a few steps, most people will understand that those steps are a given.

So if you have your character getting out of bed and eventually heading for the kitchen for a cup of tea, decide which details are important; not every last one is going to be necessary. You might have the character stretch, stumble to his feet, take a pee, then have him shove a mug with water in it into the microwave. Then again, you might decide to just have him get up and get to the kitchen right away, with the bathroom as something that's understood.

Always assume that most of your readers have brains and that they'll understand stuff that people do every day. Unless, of course, your character does something weird/fantastic/unorthodox, like hopping into a helicopter after he wakes up, or something. :-)

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~Nancy Beck