Descriptions by Keith Julius
I love descriptive passages in books, the kinds that grab hold and yank you away from the humdrum concerns of everyday life. One of the great things about reading is it allows you to escape from reality for a few moments. Your imagination is free to roam wherever the author decides to take you. Reading has transported me to distant places, exploring foreign peoples and cultures. I’ve traveled the universe in spaceships and journeyed across the seas with sailors and pirates and discoverers. I can do anything and go anywhere, constrained only by the words on the page, and beautifully written descriptions make the experience that much more enjoyable.
But when is description too much?
I grew up reading classics like “Around the World in Eighty Days,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” and “Treasure Island.” Wonderful stories all but, let’s face it, often these types of novels become bogged down with description. Maybe, considering people of the times were limited in their experiences to such a confined sphere of existence, the authors found it necessary to present every morsel of information available on a subject. Herman Melville could spend countless pages describing the whaling industry, utilizing the most minute of details. Unfortunately, this style of writing does tend to slow the pacing of a story.
I think the modern reader expects a more rapid flow of events. Whether this is due to the fact that the internet has revolutionized our style of thinking to the point where we want all our facts presented in bite-sized snippets, or merely an indication of the hectic pace we all live in where we don’t have time to digest heavy does of information, is hard to say. But I think it’s too easy to lose a reader if we don’t stick to the pertinent facts of a story-line and move the book along.
I love writing vivid and detailed descriptions of things. It gives me the opportunity to wax poetic and stretch my descriptive prowess. But at the same time I know I have to temper the telling and not lose myself – or my audience – by going overboard.
A while ago I read “Les Miserables.” It is a marvelous book, and I enjoyed the telling of it, but six chapters devoted to a description of the sewers of Paris seemed a bit extreme. Particularly when it breaks the rhythm of the story and disrupts the flow of events.
So whenever I find myself drifting into lengthy descriptions that don’t move the story forward I remind myself that I don’t want to drag my readers down into the sewers. There are better things to write about.
Written by Keith Julius
Please visit www.keithjulius.com to learn more about me and my writing. Here you’ll find links to buying my books as well as sample chapters of each of my novels.