Too many details a bad thing in writing?

United States
January 8, 2009 11:18pm CST
I was reading this website and it said one of the HUGE mistakes newbie writers make in their books is put too much detail into it. i.e. tell everything a character did on their way downstairs to breakfast instead of putting that they went down there and thats it. I am one that is guilty of too many details but I would think it would be a good thing since you wouldn't have to use your imagination all the time. Who is right? More details = BAD or GOOD?
2 people like this
16 responses
@winterose (39897)
• Canada
9 Jan 09
it depends on the plot, too many details can bore the reader but if those details are important to bring out the plot then they are needed.
2 people like this
• United States
9 Jan 09
I think I over detail the areas about the characters. I am afraid they will look shallow so I do too much or something
• United States
13 Jan 09
I am on board with too many details a bad thing. One reason i like to read is to use my imagination. And sometimes using to much detail makes the story boring, of course i think stephen king uses to much detail and bores me out of reading his books so what do i know.
1 person likes this
• United States
13 Jan 09
funny thing is people love him.. i like him but i think that might be a reason i never read much of his stuff other than 2 or more books
• United States
13 Jan 09
I love his gunslinger series...well atleast the half of it i read...i really want to finish it but dang...the man needs to make his points then move on.
1 person likes this
@DawGwath (1042)
• Romania
9 Jan 09
You said it like using your imagination is a bad thing, which is not. I think that using details can be a GREAT thing but only if they have any connection to the characters feelings or the plot itself. It's no use of putting details just for the sake of it, as it bores the mind and convinces you to give up reading. It also depends on the genre of your writing as using details concerning the environment in a detective story is a must, when in a love story, details of the environment will only be important if they relate to the character's feelings. But who am I to give such advice, I haven't wrote a book by now...
1 person likes this
• United States
10 Jan 09
Well I know I put a lot of detail in the characters of my love story. they are both complicated so it needs to be explained why they act wacky sometimes lol
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@DawGwath (1042)
• Romania
11 Jan 09
So I guess that demonstrates my point, somehow :D . Thanks! If I remember correctly there was a technique called "the detail's technique", used by Balzac, in which he describes everything from the clothes the characters wear to the colour of their hair, the texture of the drapes of a room, the insides and outsides of a house, all that stuff. But that's something else and it sure feels like the classicist current.
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@dodo19 (40152)
• Beaconsfield, Quebec
9 Jan 09
I think that, for certain things, it can be a bad thing. Such as in the example you gave, of describing everything a character did on his or her way down to breakfast. I doubt that that would be a good thing. A lot times shorter sentences is much better. Instead of using too many details, you can do the same thing with short sentences. You simply have to choose your words very carefully. However it is possible. You're not the only one, who is guilty of putting too much detail. I used to be one of them. I still have some problems with it. However, I am working on it.
1 person likes this
• United States
9 Jan 09
It doesn't matter if its a novel or just a blog or something I am a rambler! So I was really worried when I read that and thought i might have to go through my past work and chop the hell out of it. I know I already made them too long as is but it's painful for me to cut things out
@dodo19 (40152)
• Beaconsfield, Quebec
9 Jan 09
I know the feeling. However, I don't think you should have to cut things out, if you don't really want to. I think it's probably something you might want to look out for in the future. If you choose to try not to ramble so much, that is.
1 person likes this
• China
10 Jan 09
yes .I think so,mybe they want to keep something in their minds,on one hand ,it can give we to imagination all the time,on the other hand ,it is very convenience for us to write some diary.
1 person likes this
@lexus54 (3576)
• Singapore
10 Jan 09
The level of detailing in any writing really depends on the subject expounded. For example, if a manual is supposed to describe to you how to assemble a product or component and there are details that need to be explained, then it may benefit the reader to have the steps and instructions laid out very clearly. But if you are writing on a topic for a general audience, it is best to spare the reader all the lucid details because that can bore them to tears. I think the best writing are those that are simple, clear to understand and devoid of high sounding abstract language and bombastic words.
1 person likes this
@irishidid (8716)
• United States
10 Jan 09
I have to agree with the website. This was my complaint about the Harry Potter books. While I admired Rowling's attention to details and how much research she put into her work, I got irritated by how she wrote a scene and then later on explained it.
1 person likes this
@nsujin (91)
• India
10 Jan 09
Too much knowledge is bad for some types of memory study finds
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@ronaldinu (12439)
• Malta
9 Jan 09
Spoon feeding your readers is not that adivisable. I think that what you read makes a lot of sense. I read a couple of books on writing and one of them was one by stephen king. It makes quite a lot of sense to let your readers use their imagination. (c) ronaldinu 2009 - the more people I meet-the more I love my dog
1 person likes this
@SHAMRACK (8521)
• India
9 Jan 09
Dear friend, A mistake could bring into a change of expressing ideas. Still a times even if there are mistakes if the the ideas in that content is better I hope that is really expressed well. But it may also feel boring if that long content is not interesting with not much mistakes. I hope if the content provides an interesting one it would be better. Mistake often happen and it would be better if one learn better from mistakes .
@tessah (6621)
• United States
9 Jan 09
the adage "less is more" holds true in.. well, just about everything. too many details is really a bad thing.. it clogs up the pages with sentence after sentence of monotony to the point the reader becomes .. bored. closes the book, and doesnt read any further. this doesnt bode well with good writing. books are meant to fuel the imagnation.. so you can create the worlds on the pages within your mind and be swept away within the story and become a part of it. if they didnt.. theyd be movies.
1 person likes this
9 Jan 09
I believe it depends on the type of book, the overall length and the necessity for that amount of depth. I find that with bare details i can use my imagination and potentially see it differently in my head each time i read. So from that point of view i guess fewer details are good. With too many details i wonder if i'm ever going to get past a certain chapter or part of a day and i switch off from boredom. I started to read a book by Will Self last year which started very well, intriguing, but when the main chapters came along they were so drawn out and detailed i gave up, which is unusual for me. I find Bernard Cornwell manages to aggregate well the level of detail required to set a scene, introduce the characters and highlight their exploits. It still leaves the level of imagination and mystery to keep you reading til the end to find the outcome. Another factor relevant to depth of detail is the audience the book is aimed at. I've read Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time on multiple occasions and that is a good example here. There is enough detail to give you a general idea of the subject, but not too much to completely confuse the reader.
@owlwings (42107)
• Cambridge, England
9 Jan 09
Surely the art of fiction writing is to inspire imagination! Books that leave nothing to the imagination are usually remarkably boring. To me, the mark of a good chapter is that it leaves the mind resonating with imagination once you have finished it and also leaves one wanting more. Certainly detail is good but it must be detail that is relevant to the developing plot and only as much as the reader can relate to in order to picture the situation in his or her mind. It's the choice of detail, rather than whether there is too much or too little, that's important.
@_sketch_ (5709)
• United States
16 Jul 09
I think it depends on how the writer words it mostly. A lot of details can be a good thing, but you don't want to spend an entire page on one meaningless little thing. Details definitely help with imagery, but some tasks are just boring and the writer is going to want to focus more on excitement.
• United States
8 Jul 09
This is something that you have to figure out on your own. No one can give you the right formula, because there isn't one. Readers like different things, sometimes they are in the mood for something that doesn't have a lot of detail, but sometimes they want that picture in their head. My advice to you is to find out what sort of detail you like, find authors that write that and emulate, from there, experiment, see what works and what doesn't. When you get to a place where you are confident in your writing and you need not ask theses sort's of questions, than I believe that you would have grown in your writing.
• United States
9 Apr 09
I'm glad you asked! I teach a creative writing class at the middle and high school level, and we had an entire lesson on this concept. I likened details to spices in food. You have to have just the right amount. Too little spice and your food is dull, too much and it may end up being inedible! You have to find that happy medium that gives your reader enough to go on without hijacking their imaginations and slowing down the story. I've written a a full article on this, if you would like to read it - http://writinghood.com/style/how-to/lesson-11-imagery-and-adjectives-and-adverbs-o-my/ "Imagery and Adjectives and Adverbs, O My!" Hope you get a lot out of it :) Christian M. Archer