Musings From A Bookmammal

Booking Through Thursday–The Power of Description!


Click to play along!

Click to play along!

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme that asks a bookish question each week. You can join in by clicking the link above! This week’s question is:

Today’s question is connected to last week’s—descriptive writing is one of the ways writing has changed. Books from a century or two ago spent huge swaths of text describing locations and character traits, but modern writing does all of this in shorthand. You might know a character is short with blond hair and blue eyes, but the author leaves the rest for you to figure out on your own. The writer might tell you the story takes place at a beachside town, but leaves the details to your imagination. Why do you suppose this is? Is it that we have shorter attention spans these days? That, bombarded with video and photos as we are, we don’t NEED every detail of an unknown scene described, because we have a stock of images already in our heads?

I think the reduction of such detailed descriptions by many authors is due to the wide access we have to such a huge range of images in movies, TV, the internet, etc.–plus more opportunities for travel–which makes all those fabulously detailed descriptions from authors of long ago so admirable! THEY didn’t have access to a storehouse of all of those mental images either, yet they were able to paint such vivid pictures for their readers. And, of course, that’s the gift of a truly talented writer. There are still writers today whose trademark is lengthy descriptions of settings and characters, but I think there’s a portion of today’s readers who tend to skip over those parts just to keep the plot moving for themselves. And that’s all part of the freedom we have to read whatever–and however–we wish!

What about you? Is there an author you enjoy mainly for their breathtaking descriptions of locations or characters? Which authors or books–modern or classic–paint the most vivid pictures in your mind? Please share!

Author: bookmammal

I love books, reading, writing, cooking, eating, reading while eating, and sharing thoughts about all of the above–plus a bit more! I usually post about topics relating to books and literacy during the week, and then participate in a variety of non-bookish memes on the weekend. Please feel free to join in! Some random things about me– –I have multiple bookshelves in every room of my home except the bathroom. They’re all filled to bursting. They help to make my house my home. –I have two cats who I love dearly, but who I definitely do NOT dress in human clothing. Ever. –I’ve never had a cavity. –I make a mean spaghetti sauce. –I’m a newcomer to yoga and I love it. –My day is not complete without a little chocolate.

10 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday–The Power of Description!

  1. I don’t mind lengthy descriptions as long as they paint a vivid picture in my mind as i read through the lines. But if the description is not interesting, I would also prefer to skip through it. 🙂

  2. I agree – many people like plot-driven books and will skip lengthy passages of description (I’m guilty of this!).

  3. I agree! And also with the comments here so far.

  4. I do love descriptions, but have moved to a slightly “less is more” attitude. Here’s MY BTT POST

    • Less IS sometimes more–I agree. Again, it all depends so much on the skill of the author. What one writer can fully convey in a single paragraph might take another writer multiple pages.

  5. It depends on the type of book as well I think. A fast moving plot gets held up by long descriptive pieces whereas if it is a slow reveal description helps control the pace?

    • I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I think you’re right. If I’m at a key point in a suspenseful thriller, I don’t necessarily want two full pages on how the living room looks.

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