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I feel this is a topic often debated among authors and readers: is there such a thing as too much description or too little?

Some authors go into great detail to describe important things in a book, such as a setting or a book’s tone. Others go into great detail describing something that is minor, such as a character’s appearance or one room that is shown only once in a book. And then there are authors who are altogether vague.

I don’t vague details, but I also don’t like it when authors go overboard. I’ve read books where a character’s appearance was not mentioned at all, except whether it was a male or female character. But I’ve also read books where a bedroom is described right down to a slightly open drawer or a piece of fuzz on the floor. Why did I have to know all that, especially since that bedroom plays no significant part in the story and is basically just there?

I like details that give me a good idea of what the town is all about based on its layout, what the character looks like so I could better easily picture him or her, and what a place looks like based on the immediate details. In other words, I just like the basics. I see having descriptions as a way for the author to communicate with readers rather than letting them fend for themselves while reading.

I sometimes go into a lot of detail when I write, but then I stop myself because all of that detail isn’t necessary. Sure, I may like to describe an outfit or how a house is set up, but would my readers care? Chances are, no, especially if those details don’t matter much to the story. They want to know what happens to someone, not what exactly that person is wearing.

I once saw a discussion on a writers’ forum where a character’s appearance was debated. Some said it unnecessary to mention hair and eye color, height and weight. Those who did explained that it would enforce stereotypes of say, blonde women, obese people, short men, etc. Personally, I like to know the basics of what characters look like, and I want my readers to know the same for the ones I create. Whether I am enforcing society’s expectations of certain hair colors or heights, that’s another debate. I try to do away with expectations, but sometimes how I see a character is just how I see them. I’m really not making a statement on appearances.

So anyway, descriptions are fun. It helps bring a connection between author and reader. Just as long as the author doesn’t overdo it. 🙂