Question of the Week: Too Many Words?

Over the years, I’ve supplied art suggestions for articles and sometimes for the covers to my own books. Usually I gave them to an art director, most of whom simplified my ideas to give the artist the greatest possible freedom. On at least one occasion, the art director passed along my detailed one-page character description and many links to Elizabethan-era playhouses. The artist’s brain nearly exploded.

Since then, I’ve tried to be careful not to overwhelm an artist with too much detail. But do some readers suffer the same sort of detail overload?

I know I’ve read stories with page after page of detail. A few of these were fascinating descriptions of meals or futuristic cities or something equally engaging, but most were, in a word, tedious.

I’m sure I’ve erred on the side of tedium sometimes, especially in some of my earlier work but also when presenting a character who has an eye for detail. These days, at least during revision, I try to keep an eye out for excessive detail and snip it away before it can wreak its havoc.

Where do you most often notice excessive detail in fiction? Is it in description of a character’s appearance? Is it in setting, clothing, technological devices? Are there places where you appreciate detail more than in others? That is, do you like detailed descriptions of fantasy or SF governments but find differences in fashion dull as dust?

4 thoughts on “Question of the Week: Too Many Words?

  1. Short and evocative in a swords and sorcery/action/adventure book. Crank up the details when you’re delivering an epic–although there’s definitely a page-to-suckling-pig ratio that was abused early on in at least one series I know of.

  2. Mind you, Terese Nielsen did a bang-up job on that cover. Actually, the Sembia series in general is my favourite fantasy-series in terms of cover-art.

  3. Indeed, Black Wolf remains very near the top of my favorite covers list. She shared her reaction to the art references while selling me the original.

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