Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Descriptions - How Much is Too Much?

I was going to write on inspiration today but changed my mind at the last minute. This is following a conversation I had with the author Crystal Lee. We are working on designing the covers for her Canopy series and I thought about putting a likeness of the main character from each book on the cover. Some folks like this, some don't.

Here's why I think some people like it:

It gives them an instant visual of the character and they can get an idea if it's someone they can identify with right away. There's no need for long, dragging descriptions in the text because you're showing them the person; look, here they are, and this is exactly how the writer pictured them when he/she wrote about them.

And here's why I think some people don't like it:

It limits their imaginations. If the author does a good job of describing the character, most people will have an idea of what that character looks like but want to be free to form the face in their own mind.

I still don't know what we're going to do but both of those scenarios must be considered.

This passes right back to how you write. I want you to stop and consider this for a moment:

If you describe a character down to the last toenail, where does the reader get to interject their imagination? That's right, they can't. Examples:

If we allow the reader to use their imagination:

I looked at Gretchen and admired her full hips and almost flawless complexion. When combined with her raven black hair and green eyes, she was a knockout. I knew she took care of herself because of the perfect manicures I saw on her fingers and toes. She had on gold jewelry that went well with her white capris, blue top, and blue peep-toe heels that made her appear much taller than she was.

If we give a full description:

I looked at Gretchen and admired her full hips, slender legs, generous bust, and alabaster skin. When combined with her long, raven black hair, almond shaped green eyes, full lips, pert nose, and perfect ears, she was a knockout. I could tell she took care of herself when I saw the french manicures on her long, slender fingers and her elegant toes. She had gold jewelry on every part of her body that she could adorn and was wearing white capris with black stitching down the sides and on the pockets, an ocean blue top that had a handkerchief hem and ruffles around the cap sleeves, and blue peep-toe heels that made her 5'9" stature look like 5'11.

Bet you can picture Gretchen pretty well now, eh?

WOW. What a difference, eh? I'd be willing to bet every reader that reads the second passage would be able to draw Gretchen and the drawings would be similar. How about the first? I'd be willing to bet you got short hair, long hair, shoulder length hair, etc... hell, maybe even a mohawk!! Okay, not really.

I see this all too often. Writers that leave little to the imagination. So what if when they make the movie the lead doesn't look like what I pictured? I bet they look like what someone pictured.

Think on it.

I'm off to finish my edit of Yassa today. 9am and time to get busy!!

Until next time, WRITE ON!!



  1. How did I never see this post? Hmm... You know, I used to like a lot of description, but now I find it tedious. I think now that I write, I like to figure out for myself what they look like and almost base a lot of it on their personality.


    1. I dunno, lady! Don't you just adore being mentioned? :) I hate lengthy descriptions used as filler. Makes me bonkers. :) Thanks for the comment! I've missed your smilin' face :)


Play nice and have fun. If you're a jerk, I won't publish your comment. My blog. My rules. Thanks for taking the time to chat at me!

Comments have been temporarily disabled due to the astronomical amount of spam I've been dealing with. Sorry!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.