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January 24, 2018

I’ve talked about descriptions quite a bit here at Fred Central. Though I have nothing personal against the literary crowd, as a reader, I like the author to get to the point. As a writer, I try to reflect that as well.

I, in no way, have attention deficit disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I know this is a common condition that manifests in a lot of people nowadays. It can make it hard for people afflicted with it to stay focused. Therefore, one needs to keep on task to maintain their attention.

This is not what I’m talking about…at all.

There are those of us that just like to cut to the chase. It’s as simple as that. While we can sit through endless slogs of “whatever” to get to a point, generally, we much prefer to get there and avoid the fluff. That doesn’t mean we have any mental or psychological condition. We just have better things to do with our time.


The literary writer is in love with words. Well, let’s think about that. We, as writers are all in love with words. That is, after all, our entire reason for being here in this passion of writing. The difference is that as genre writers, some of us prefer to make our point in as few words as possible, where the literary writer stops to smell the roses, to dig deep into descriptions, feelings etc.

Someone who enjoys literary writing doesn’t mind taking three chapters to get across the street. On the other hand, someone who likes to get to the point would much prefer that happened in two or three sentences.

Big difference.

The reality is that with most writers, it all falls somewhere in-between.

One can cut to the chase, but still throw in a little of the kitchen sink without adding in the dirty dishwater.


I can only go so far with the description of a room. General size, shape, what’s in it as in major items are good enough for me. The main point is what’s significant in the room that’s key to the story and plot is all I really care about. The rest of it’s just window dressing. I zone it out. How many sentences or words does it take to accomplish that?

When I’m on the third paragraph and we’re still describing the room, guess what I’m doing? I’m treading water. I’m zoning out. I’m only coasting along in case I miss something key to the story. I can count on my hand…one hand…in the hundreds if not more books I’ve read lately that rambled like that, where there was something within all that blather that really mattered toward the plot/story/anything. It was pure fluff, rambling by the author. Maybe it was literary, meant for those that love words, but for someone like me, it was the old adult in the Charlie Brown cartoons. “Wah wah wah wah wah.”


Be honest with yourself. When is it that you zone out when you’re reading a description of something? Now, translate that to your own writing. As much as you burn to describe something in detail, sit back, take a breath and read through it again.

Where, as a reader, would you zone out?

What can you cut that doesn’t really add anything except additional color, flavor, bla bla bla to the description? Is it really necessary?

Everyone has their own tolerance level. I certainly do. There are certain things I want to put in. Sometimes it’s a balance of what I want, versus what I need.

Sometimes a room is just a room.

Sometimes a forest is just a forest.

On the other hand, they can’t all be drab with no detail.

Your world can’t be gray. You have to color it in!

The key is that you don’t want to slather on the paint so thick you obscure the picture.

How’s that for an analogy?

To reverse what I just said, in your story, no room is just a room. If it is, it doesn’t need to be there.

That’s right, if that room needs to be there, it has a purpose so it needs a description. A simple description will do, but simple can be quite detailed at the same time. It doesn’t have to be thirty pages, just a few simple words.

Remember, words have power.

You don’t want those words to lose that power to where the reader zones out, especially if that room is just a small part of the journey.

Keep reader tolerance level in mind with every part of your story. Everything has a purpose and you need to consider how you apply the “paint” to your word canvas.


Whether literary or action based, you need to find your balance. If you’re a writer, you should also be a reader. I don’t see how you can write without understanding your potential audience (unless you don’t care). You can only reflect what you like to read and adjust from there, depending on what your goal is.

Happy writing!

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