The following guest post is by novelist E. Rose Sabin, (Seduction of the Scepter, WiDo Publishing 2012), originally appearing on her blog at erosesabin.wordpress.com. It deals with a typical writerly issue: how much character description to include? The post is re-published here with Sabin’s permission.
Today’s blog raises a question I don’t have an answer for: How much description is too much, and how little description is too little?
When I write, I tend to be spare in regard to description. I think it’s largely due to the fact that when I read, I prefer to use my imagination to visualize a character’s appearance and dress. Also, I don’t like reading a story that pauses the action to give lengthy descriptions unless those descriptions are vital to the plot. In some stories the setting plays such a vital part that it must be described in detail. In all stories some sense of place is necessary, but the amount of description needed to provide that sense of place varies according to the type of story it is.
In my book Seduction of the Scepter, I set the novel in a fictitious country, but I located that country in our world in a specific historical time and in a specific region of the world: eastern Europe in the mid 1700s. Although using a fictitious country allowed me latitude to invent the political system and certain customs, those had to at least fit into the time period. Although I used no actual historical events or personages, I researched the styles of dress and hair, the popular foods, the music and dance, the religious and social customs of the era and drew on that research to make the story believable.