A Short Blog Post about Description

I get the sense that Dan was a little angry when he wrote this.

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It’s my birthday weekend, so this week’s blog post is a short one. Besides, I’m sure your time at the weekend, or whatever time of the day or week you’re reading this, feels equally important to you as the time I’m going to spend celebrating that I’ve made it to the age of thirty-two does to me.

And that’s kinda the point of this week’s blog post, that of being concise in your writing and not wasting readers’ time.

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Time, often referred to as being precious.

In my opinion, novels are too long. If you’ve read any of my Jake Hancock comedic mysteries, you might have noticed that they don’t take more than three hours to read. It isn’t because I’m lazy and unable to churn out a hundred-thousand-plus-word story. It’s because I don’t write a lot of description.

If someone came up to me in the street and said they have a story they want me to read, and that it takes between five and six hours to get through, I’d tell that lunatic to double the dosage of whatever medicine he’s been prescribed. My time’s too precious. I wouldn’t sit through a five-hour movie, so why do novelists expect readers to spend five hours reading their book?

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Something funny.

I know what you’re thinking: Why don’t I read novellas or short stories? Because I don’t think the lengths of those formats are long enough for most writers to tell a fulfilling story in, unless the writer cuts out all the unnecessary description.

I care about reading three things in novels: 1) What characters say, 2) what they do, and 3) what they’re thinking, as long as what they’re thinking, doing, or saying is entertaining and/or moves the story along.

If they’re saying stuff to another character in a busy city street, and you want to set the scene, then write “a busy city street.” Believe it or not, most people have experienced a busy city street. They can imagine it for themselves. Don’t tell them that there’s a building that’s twenty-two stories high, and what the building’s constructed out of, or what models of cars are whizzing past the character.

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More or less a busy city street.

Is it important that the buildings they imagine upon reading “busy city street” are only twenty-one stories high, or God forbid, only twenty stories high? Absolutely not. And crazily enough, when I read “busy city street” I imagined there were cars on the road. I’m good like that.

The same can be said for most descriptions in novels in most genres, with a few exceptions. Science fiction and fantasy, where worlds are constructed that we don’t live in already, can have at their descriptions, filling pages with it. Same goes for erotica, where reading descriptions of places and, err, characters is part and parcel of the experience.

For other fiction genres, keep the camera focused on what really matters: what the characters do, say, and think. And give readers back the time they were going to waste.

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I wonder what that section of fence or whatever behind them looks like

If reading about shit you can imagine all by yourself annoys the hell out of you, don’t forget to share this blog post with your friends by using the social media share buttons below.

And if you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to follow the blog by filling in the form at the top-right corner of the webpage.


If want to find out if novels sparse with description can work, check out my books here.

If you want to wish me happy Birthday, the best way to do it is by heading on over to my Facebook page and pressing the like button.

Author: Dan Taylor - Crime Fiction Author

Crime fiction author and silly man.

2 thoughts on “A Short Blog Post about Description”

  1. Hi Jake Liked your post. I just wanted to add something. I felt that you’re missing the point a little bit about movies. A movie is a visual experience whereas a book is a cerebral experience. A movie doesn’t have to be 5 or 6 hours long because the viewer can SEE all around – this equals the descriptive parts in a book. But bad dialogue doesn’t make up for lack of description – at least not in my own personal view. You obviously have a unique way of writing books and you’re getting them published so at least you’ve found the winning formula for you. By the way, broccoli works!!!

    Like

    1. Hi,

      It’s just my preference. I dislike the story getting slowed down by descriptive passages. The story for me, is the characters, and I don’t care what they look like or what the buildings or the rooms they’re in look like.

      Great to hear it’s not just me with the broccoli!

      Thanks for reading every week.

      Dan

      Like

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