To Detail or Not to Detail





“if it’s not plot relevant, cut it!!” is such awful writing advice

if JRR Tolkien had cut every bit of Lord of the Rings that wasn’t directly related to the central plot, it would have been just one book long, COLOURLESS and DULL AS DIRT. 

all the little worldbuilding/character details are what draw you in and give the central plot weight, FOOL

I agree 100% I’m currently writing a book and I tend to focus on the little quirks of the characters because it helps the readers get to know them better

It’s not awful writing advice.  It’s good writing advice.  What it’s saying is that you should carefully consider each and every word. 

Does this paragraph pull its weight? 

Does this chapter slow the pace of the story?  Is that what I want here?

Can I merge this scene with another to create a stronger single scene?

What that advice is telling you to do is to make sure what you’re writing is the best it can be.  That doesn’t mean you have to follow it 100%.  But consider it while you’re writing.

I honestly feel like both Tolkien and George RR Martin would’ve been served by cutting some scenes.  HOWEVER, I like tightly paced books, not sprawling slogs through the swamps of discovery writing. 

Your mileage may vary.

I mean i fundamentally disagree with you on that last part (i love a long, thick, meaty book) but you’re also misunderstanding what i mean (which is understandable, this was just a ranty little post that i didn’t expect much of anyone to reblog)

there’s a difference between “plot” and “story”

there are a lot of great stories that have very little in the way of central plot (ever read the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy? there’s hardly any plot to that at all, it’s just a long series of diversions and narrative blind alleys) and even in more focused stories (someone else in the notes of this post brought up Hamlet as an example), it’s extraneous scenes, not directly related to the plot, that make the strongest impression on the audience and lend weight to the more central events. The “alas, poor yorick” scene? totally unrelated to the main plot, yet thematically essential to the story and arguably the most evocative and iconic scene from the play

yes, by all means don’t waste your audience’s time with things that add nothing, but if you pull a hemingway and trim your story down to the bare minimum outline of the plot, i for one will find it all but impossible to become immersed in the story. The best plot ever written can be let down by a lack of narrative muscle and fat around it but even the most flimsy plot can be saved by sufficiently entertaining padding.

Details! I love writing in the extra flavor details, and looking for them in the media I consume (I mean, even in visual media, people like finding neat stuff in the background, right?).

I do understand the original advice and the counterpoints. In the end it’s up to the writer. My personal preference in this regard is that, if going into detail on something means I would have to go back and figure out what the story is actually going for, it might need to be moved elsewhere, or maybe disperse the details rather than just shoving this big chunk in the middle of a scene that is otherwise flowing naturally. My book had a few chapters’ worth of scenes that only served to carry exposition and world building, and it meant the actual story didn’t really get going for a while. When I took that exposition and instead broke it into bits that could actually fit alongside the action, I felt a lot better about the storytelling.

That’s just my two cents. There are also times in a story where it’s appropriate and also super fun to pause for a moment and paint a picture – figuring out the timing and pace you prefer is down to the individual.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.