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What's wrong with being over descriptive in your stories? (1 Viewer)

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I have a question, when I posted my writing up in the forums, look for it if you want to see it. anyways, I got soem critiques saying that, you put unessecary detail in your writing, your being over descriptive. What's wrong with that,

How do I know what detail is necessary in a story and what's unnecessary?

How do I know if im being over descriptive?


Senior Member
Because some times it can bog the flow down and just unnecessary. Plus, I think you need to let the reader form an image in their own mind. If I read a woman has long, blond hair and electric blue eyes that's enough for me. I picture her attractive. The writer doesn't have to let me know that even though she/he will through the eyes of the male character. But not to the point where I can't use my imagination. Pick you words carefully and remember less is more.


Senior Member
I haven't read your piece, so take this comment with a grain of salt.

Description, I think, is really up to preference. My personal taste is only describing what I want the reader to know for plot or character development. Some people like to describe everything. It makes for good ambience. In short, I don't believe there's one answer to give you on this point.

Mr Sci Fi

Senior Member
I have a question, when I posted my writing up in the forums, look for it if you want to see it. anyways, I got soem critiques saying that, you put unessecary detail in your writing, your being over descriptive. What's wrong with that,

How do I know what detail is necessary in a story and what's unnecessary?

How do I know if im being over descriptive?

Well, it's really a Trial and Error process. Once you read enough you begin to discern what works and what doesn't.

Basically, there's good description and bad description. If it matters to the story, you should spend a decent amount of time describing it, but if it's insubstantial things like the color of the main character's locks, than it's pretty much a waste of time.

For the most part, the reader is going to make what he wants out of your setting. The reader isn't going to see your word exactly as you do, but you can help the reader by describing close enough, using standard descriptions that everyone can relate to.

When I describe a room, I like to concentrate on each of the five senses, but not in succession. I might open with a simile for how the room looks, then I'll dive right into its scent. I'll flesh out the scene a bit more later as my character feels the temperature shift or something or the other. That's the most important thing I think, just describing how the room feels to your character. Does he care that there's a crack in the bottom left wall of the room? Unless it's imperative to the story, he doesn't.

Now, let's take Gibson on the other hand. The guy describes EVERYTHING, I'm talking about even down to the reflection of light on a character's face. The thing is though, it doesn't bog the reader down. Gibson describes in such wit and intelligence, that you actually believe it to be a contemporary novel, as if we all live in this world and are so familiar with it. The thing is though, he doesn't over describe. He spends one line at most on something, but he crafts his descriptions in such small doses over the course of the story, that you're growing along with the world, instead of having it fed to you.

I hope this helps somewhat. But I'm still beginning to learn my chops on this subject as well, and I'm beginning to feel like it's one of my stronger qualities.
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Senior Member
From reading your work, it's not so much over descriptive as it is details about unimportant things.

Your level of description about anything (room, character, object) should be on a level with its importance to the overall plot arc. If you give a three paragraph detailed description about Mary's new shoes, that signals the reader that those particular shoes figure prominently into the story. Details tell the reader, "this is important, remember this."

Ilasir Maroa

Senior Member
This has pretty much been said already, but it bears repeating. Don't describe somthing not important to the story in some way. If it's a beautiful spring day, and this affects the mood of the character, then it's fair to describe it. If it doesn't matter what the weather is, then don't waste a word on it. Almost every word in a story should have a purpose, especially in shorter works.

Linton Robinson

Senior Member
Your question begs itself. If it's OVERdescription then that's what's wrong with it. It's it's NOT too much, then it's fine.

As mentioned, there are some limits to how much people want. But by the same token, you read popular books, especially fantasy and historical pieces, just dripping with description and detail and people drool over it. Henry Miller could take five pages to describe taking a piss or picking a booger.

What doesn't work, you have to say, is BORING description. No detail is too tiny if well-presented. If the writing is bad, it doesn't matter whether its description or whatever.

This is a matter for your own personal taste, and a major part of your style. It's worth looking into and poring over....going back later to read things and seeing how they hold up, for one thing...but there is no law on how much description is good or bad.


Senior Member
It used to be said that literary fiction was description, while genre fiction was action, but the line between the two has now been blurred by modernity, and the two are more closely linked than before.

I think it depends on your own writing ability, your natural writing ability, not one influenced by creative writing courses, which can often do more harm than good.

By all means learn the necessary basics, read all you can, but write naturally, write to please yourself (mostly), and if you feel that you want to describe something in detail, do it – you will be judged by your reader’s reaction anyway. There are no set rules.

Rabid Euphoria

Senior Member
No matter how well you try and get the picture across the reader won't see what you see. I don't care what kind of hairstyle they have (unless it's pertinent to development/plot). If they are muscular, say they are muscular. If their fat, say so. That is a key part of the character. One of my characters is known to be middle-aged, balding with glasses. Really it's all that is needed.

When describing surroundings you can't get to caught up in it, especially during action sequences. Breif description to supplement the action description is all you need. My personal preference is to embed symbolism and themes into my description. What little info you get about my characters appearences is crucial; eye colour, nose size, mouth size, ear size, chin size and other variables, in my opinion, should only be used to set characters apart, especially minor characters. Have a two appearance character have a huge nose that can be made fun of - adds depth from a small fact.

Description is nice when told vividly in parts. Say a character has a moment of clarity or something is so awe inspiring or horrendous it wouldn't be the same without a careful description of the look and feel of it.

My problem with description is how to describe repetitive things. I'm writing a zombie horror book and after 200+ pages how many ways can you write 'got shot' or simply describe what they look like or don't. I wonder if after this long the audience can imagine their own 'zombies' or if I have to tell them if male or female, young or old. I've tried to use description properly, to show the 'zombies' humanity and project the lives they were living but it's difficult.


If you ask me, being verbose is excellent, and I love reading deep descriptions that explain every little detail so it gives you an exact image in your head. Take Stephen King, for example, in his books I sometimes forget I am reading and it's like I'm watching a movie.

But since everyone seems to dislike it, my comment will probably go ignored.

Just my two cents.

Mike C

WF Veterans
being verbose is excellent

He trod quietly on the gravel path so as not to alert the guard. The gravel was mostly flint, but with some sandstone particles mixed in, giving the path a mottled appearance, three or four shades of brown, from grizzly-bear brown right through to a shade somewhere between beige and taupe. Putty, maybe. It was hard to tell in the twilight. The sun was just below the horizon, sunset being at 6.16 this time of year. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, there would probably be a frost by morning, which would affect the orange crops in the next county. A tree screened him from the watchtower, he thought it might be a birch but it might be something else, he wasn't too good on trees. It was a nice, noble looking tree though, about thirty feet high, maybe 25, maybe 35, and the trunk was about a foot in diameter, which would be about 300mm in metric, not that he used metric because he was an american, but he'd spent a year at school in Paris so knew what a millimeter looked like.

"Who goes there?" A guard came running towards him at about twelve miles per hour, his size ten jackbooted feet sending the aforementioned mottled gravel flying in arcs of about twelve feet in diameter as first his left then his right then his left etc foot came crashing down on it, each step having a fair probability of crushing an insect or maybe even a very small mammal underfoot.

Yeah, verbose is the best, right?
errr.... well, that kinda was like 7 seperate paragraphs(put into one, might i add!) that all were just describing and useless background info. Also, what was that a quote of i must know

Ilasir Maroa

Senior Member
God that was obnoxious. Nice example Mike!:5stars:

Yes, being verbose can be nice, but only if it directly affects the action at hand. I don't mind a few paragraphs describing a bird... if it's important. In general, I like the length of a description to be somehwat proportional to the importance of that element in the story.


Senior Member
Hee hee. Mike C, I like you more with every post I read.
Fantasia... you said sometimes it can be like watching a movie, taking in the details. But if Mike's post were a movie, we'd be staring at the damn gravel for 2 minutes. In today's fast paced society, I don't imagine the theater is going to stay packed long. Then again, if you like details, I'm sure you'll find lots of stuff to read that I just don't have the caffinated patience for. And that might be great for you.

I believe the key is to add great packed in and original details. It's part of the trick of writing. I could introduce a female protagonist who's cuter than a whole shirtful of buttons or a school history teacher who swaggers like a hippo and talks like a boar. *Woah, that was a terribly bad pun I couldn't resist. Sorry.* Anyway, I digress. But maybe you get my point? Details are good and help for a cinematic piece, but as it's been pointed out, too many details slow it down and clog up the piece like a calicified artery. And we all know that just can't be good.


Senior Member
I read your material. I don't think it is so much about being overdescriptive. That would mean overuse of adjectives. I don't think you do that. But what you do is have a lot of run on sentences. That makes for choppy reading. Don't be afraid to end a sentence and put in a period. You tend to put in a comma and keep the sentence going when it is over.

I got up and followed Aiyana up the stairs and into a hallway. We stopped at a door that was right next to Aiyana’s room. She opened it, and hit the switch, which caused the light to turn on. I felt slightly uncomfortable when I saw the room. The office was even messier than the kitchen. There were open books, open folders, and loose papers, most of them flying around in random directions on the floor. The desk was cluttered with papers. The black chair seemed to have fallen over, with its back to the floor. The file cabinet in the very back of the room had all of its drawers open and it also seem to have tipped over.

I got up and followed Aiyana up the stairs. There, we walked down the hallway stopping at the door next to her room. She reached in and hit the light switch. Suddenly the dark room was bright. I looked around. Her office was even messier than the kitchen. I saw opened books lying around and loose papers scattered about. The file cabinet at the back of the room had tipped over ...

See? No run on sentences. It gives the story more of a flow and yet still says what you want to say and in a descriptive manner.

Keep trying, you'll get it​



Senior Member
Originally posted by Wallmaker:
But if Mike's post were a movie, we'd be staring at the damn gravel for 2 minutes. In today's fast paced society, I don't imagine the theater is going to stay packed long.
Ever seen a Terrence Malick (sp?) film? ;)

But yes, the point is valid. I like "verbose" description, too - but it needs to be description that stays on course and follows the needs of the plot. MikeC's example wanders all over the place, and that's why it seems awkward and excessive.
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