Details, details

I had an interesting exchange of views earlier today with a good friend of mine, whose opinion I greatly respect, regarding just how much detail is necessary within a storyline. While the friend who I had the conversation with will possibly disagree with me on this, I firmly believe it all depends on the storyline itself.
Take romance for instance.
In a romantic novel, minute details become necessary to emphasize emotion and the developing relationships within the story.
In a short story, unless a great majority of the detail is eliminated, it will fast become a novella. But equally within a short story often a lot of detail works well.
However I believe the same arguments cannot always be applied within a longer storyline, especially where the whole storyline is built around pace and urgency.
I have recently written a fast paced Sci-Fi manuscript about a “Race against Time”. The whole point of the story is just that – it is a race, and so by definition it cannot be bogged down with detail.
My friend made a fair point when he said that some of the locations within the story lacked enough detail. But I argue that if the protagonists merely pass through the location, not stopping to admire the scenery, is a great deal of detail necessary in describing the place?
Despite our disagreeing over whether or not added detail must be inserted, ultimately it is the story itself which dictates just how much detail should be included. At the same time I also see and respect his point of view – pace without a modicum of detail may not be enough for the reader either.
Do you increase the amount of detail at the expense of pace to please others, or as the author do you stand firm? Who can say?
One thing is sure, as long as there are two people on the planet, there will always be differing opinions on whatever subject you care to name. Everybody has a different opinion and gets something different from their reading of a story.
I value our friendship far too much my friend to argue with you over mere details.

3 thoughts on “Details, details

  1. Ahhh, the great detail! I, too, struggle with this. It's hard to know who is correct if only one person is critiquing your work. I write YA-which by nature is fast-paced. Recently, at workshops, I learned that detail can enhance tension, emotion and pace but it's a balance that must be found by the author. Multiple opinions can help you find that balance. Hang in there, you'll find it!


  2. This is why I love as many eyes as possible to look at my work. Then I can see consistencies. If enough people say, "You should describe his eyes", then I probably should add that his eyes are a deep dimensional green hue peppered with flecks of gold. 🙂 A lot of it is personal preference, but if you can add little bits of detail and do it just right without bogging pace, it'll catch your reader's eye, I guarantee.


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