View Full Version : Description. Overrated, Underrated, ?

9th December 2005, 2:26 AM
Hmm, a few friends and I were discussing about how important description is to fanfiction and the pretty high standards here at SPPf for description. What are your views on description, the amount of description, and the importance of description.

My views are very subject to change which is why I created this thread, so that people could debate on description, and I could see the different views. I personally think (as of now) that there is a bit too much emphasis being put on description. Yes, descriptions do make good writing and will help plant a clear picture in a reader's mind, but also, doesn't it sort of depend on style?

There are some fics (usually fantasy and horror) where description is very important since one of the main purposes can be to paint a beautifully fic, but at other times, big long beautiful descriptions just isn't needed. I remember reading a fic that consisted with all of about 7-10 word dialogues between two beginning pokemon trainers as they bragged as to whose pokemon was better. I was about to yell out," no!, too much dialogue, you need description!" But then I realized, does this guy really need description? Having description would have disrupted his flow and the humor that came out of his dialogue constructed style. Also, in trainer fics, is it truly important to know every detail of what people look like? Some people want to leave things up to the imagination. Also, in many classical novels and other books there really isn't huge amounts of description like "A Christmas Carol" or "To Kill a Mockingbird" or "The Harry Potter series".

Basically, my overall view is that description should matter as a part of style, and not nessecarily be such a huge component of writing.

My views on this, however, have been changing a lot since I started at Serebii, and I want to see what you guys think! Description. Overrated, underrated, ???

9th December 2005, 2:35 AM

I think describing things would be all right on Fanfic boards. You can never describe too much stuff. You need to give the reader a clear image in their head about certain things. Especially if you're making a non pokemon fic. You need to describe. Good authors decribe things. Some may go overboard but overall it's a good thing to have.


9th December 2005, 2:38 AM
I agree with Iceking. Description's purpose is to help the reader see your story. If you do that adequately, then all the description you need is there. I think that here so much emphasis is put on description that most reviewers lose sight of its purpose. And it especially is a problem when they let description become all that they mention in a review as if that were 100% of the fic.

Genre and style are important, too. In some comedy fics (I know the one you were talking about), traditional description would RUIN the humor utterly. As a reviewer, I evaluate the fic holistically and don't put too much emphasis on description...especially if it made no big difference. I say, take what you get if it's enough.

9th December 2005, 2:39 AM
Huge amounts of description are not important, but if it looks like it resembles script, then chuck it out the window, and be done with it!

Seriously, if you want your readers to envision the story in their mind, do describe, but dont make it sound like a drawn out list. If you describe, let it blend into an action. A description is something that should blend into the story, not break it into pieces.

9th December 2005, 2:43 AM
Exactly, Dilasc. Some fics are super-saturated with description. Super-saturated in that they have more description in them than the plot, characters, or message actually entails/needs. The key is a balance. Acheiving the unity of purposeful description and all other aspects of story telling is ideal.

9th December 2005, 2:49 AM
I agree that too much emphasis is placed on description. Overall, I'd say the tendency on these boards is to run into overdescription, which is particularly irksome to me because it's neither my style of writing nor my taste in reading.

Ultimately, it's balance, as people have been saying. Not much to add. Sometimes description is important, but sometimes you may even want to tone it down a great deal in order to create mystery or streamline through an action sequence.

Sky Titan
9th December 2005, 2:54 AM
I think the emphasis on description should be high but not as high as I have seen on this board. I mean, I always strive for perfection in my stories and by doing that, I need to paint a picture for my audience. I hate it when I see stories that have little description. But as long it has a desent plot, then I am all for a story. I just dont want a pure dialog story...like a script (*nods with Dilasc*)

9th December 2005, 3:04 AM
I personally think some people demand a downright silly amount of description. Description is more of a mood-setter and pace-slower than anything else, really; the more of it, the more serious the fic seems to get. You just try to write eccentric humour with the same amount of description you'd put in a dark fantasy.

Aside from that, I also believe that describing properly what is happening is in all aspects much more important than describing what everything looks like; if there's a battle scene, you do need to tell us that the Pokémon comes out of the ball, but describing exactly what the Pokémon looks like is rather unnecessary and if the battle is happening fast, it will really more disrupt the flow than make the fic better, and just a few brief descriptive words will suffice. Generally I try to avoid writing whole sentences that are nothing but description unless the main character is actually observing the object carefully and noticing those details.

10th December 2005, 12:48 AM
Down with description!

I say it's overrated, really. =/ It's very nice to have and can and usually will improve a fic's quality, but it's not like the story totally revolves around it. IMO, an excellent plot will carry a story farther than a page of description will.

I know I used to pride myself on description... But nowadays I try to focus on other, more important things. When I do start writing again, I hope to impress people with my storyline, not my fancy words. Of course, description can be extremely useful in some places. If what you're describing is very important that the reader should have a good visual image of it, then take the time and describe it well. It will help. It's just that not everything has to be described in detail.

10th December 2005, 12:58 AM
Well, I would not defend or attack description, but I will just say that genre depends more than description, as well as the personal effect you want to achive as an author. Comedy works do not need much description, while more sombre works require more description. It often depends more on the reader than the author. I would guess that HP is the ebst modern day example of the triumph of simplistic description, but the problem is that not many authors can hope to pull it off. Older authors focused more on description, and you just have to decide which side you are on and stick with it, while never showing disdain for another who chooses otherwise.

Pinecone Tortoise
10th December 2005, 4:34 AM
Hmm, I suppose my comments will be directed at the people who keep asking authors who have no description in their fics 'what does a wailord look like' in an attempt to prompt them to flesh out the story. While I may echo this sentiment, I think that describing the pokemon, unless the particular specimen is unusual, is rather silly, at least for the sake of telling people what it looks like. We pretty much know what each pokemon looks like. If you want to describe stuff, I say describe the people around them (but not ordinary clothing!), expressions, actions, settings, weird objects, etc.

Sure, stories can seem more alive with description, but I really feel that it's often a bit overdone here. And yes, I know how hypocritical it is for me to say this. ><


14th December 2005, 10:55 PM
Personally, I like to have a clear mental picture of what is going on in a 'fic, but if you can't execute this well (i.e. you just list off, in excruciating detail, what your character is wearing), it'd be better if you didn't bother. It can also depend on what is going on in the 'fic--if we're seeing through a character's eyes, so to speak, it's hard to catch all the details in an action shot, whereas if they stop and study something, you can get away with talking about it at length.

Obviously, you can't get by on description alone, but I'd prefer a little to purple prose or none at all.

14th December 2005, 11:49 PM
Description is very important, perhaps almost essential, to a good story. However, it can be overused, and should only be used by those who know how to correctly wield it. Practice is very important when working on description, and a good way to learn how it should be done is to read. Read and read and read. You can't become a good author without reading.

Back to the topic of description, it can give the reader a good idea of the location of the story or put an image in their mind, but when overused the reader will become veeery bored with the story. Pay attention to how you're using description while writing.

Bah. For some reason I'm really ticked today.

15th December 2005, 1:01 AM
I dunno, I find it extremely ironic that everyone is posting here, "There is way too much emphasis on description here!" As soon everyone stops reading this post, they'll go back to praising purple prose. Huh.

Anyway, I agree with Keleri. I'd rather have a little, adequate bit than none or purple prose.

Description is nice and all, but think about it: Can a story be boring by having too well-developed characters? Too good a plot? Too perfect grammar? Of all the aspects of writing, I think description is probably the most... well, not disposable... it's, well, the most overrated.

Mental pictures of a situtation are truly great, but when you're pouring on excess paragraphs about the flower pigments on the macadamia trees and -- notoriously-- what a character is wearing, it's too much, and you're probably neglecting some of the more important aspects of your fic. Of everything, description is the one thing, IMO, writers /should/ worry about overdoing, but don't. It's not the first thing, as a reviewer, I look for in a fic. Stop worrying about big words and start paying attention to how badly they're screwing up your syntax, because that's what I'm looking at.


15th December 2005, 3:37 AM
I go by this: if it's boring for you when proofreading, it's going to be twice as boring for your audience to read.

15th December 2005, 6:22 PM
Mental pictures of a situtation are truly great, but when you're pouring on excess paragraphs about the flower pigments (sorry to be picky xD) on the macadamia trees and -- notoriously-- what a character is wearing, it's too much, and you're probably neglecting some of the more important aspects of your fic.I totally agree. Expecially about what a character is wearing...Half a paragraph or, sometimes, a paragraph about their clothing is perfectly fine. But any more than that bores the reader out of their mind. People don't really care about what the character is wearing but for a few general details. You can include it in describing what a character looks like, but that's something that really can't be overdone. I like to describe this is pieces, throwing in bits here and there so the reader gets the general idea and dosen't end up hitting their head against their keyboard in frustration.

15th December 2005, 10:38 PM
I almost never describe clothing, and in stories I always forget what the character is wearing anyway. Unless it's an important uniform or something.

15th December 2005, 10:52 PM
I'm a description nutter myself - Tolkien did that to me - but it's tough getting the right amount of description in. You need to captivate your readers, yet not bore them to death. Surroundings, feelings, the pok&#233;mon could and should be described. Not to the point of ridiculous, but describing those things - and others, of course - is interesting. Talking indepth about the hat a character is wearing, less so. Describing characters is good, most of the time, but I find that describing secundary characters often makes more sense than describing the main focus of the story.

After all, your readers are supposed to form their own image of the character, plus we get to see a lot of him/her already.
Clothes descriptions? A quick mention, alright, a description if the clothes are nescessary to the plot, sure, but indepth explanations of the colour and fabric pattern on our hero's jacket.

15th December 2005, 11:21 PM
Description in Fics is like Music in Videogames: both are aesthetic. As an aesthetic factor, they don't make or break the concept. HOWEVER, they're this bit of vital aesthetic in either one, and if it's bad, it can make the whole thing fall down. Both settle the overall atmosphere/setting of the Fic/Videogame. Much like inadequate music makes a videogame bad, bad description will make a Fic bad.

Personally, I prefer to be in-between. Too few description won't establish an adequate setting of the story, and giving your readers a bearing of your surroundings is important in every Fic. Still, too much description will bore almost everyone out. I think there should be a limit in how much description, without falling in lack thereof. As long as the reader can get a half decent idea of how the character look like and where they're hanging at, it should be OK. You don't have to over-describe every minimal detail that won't be important at the end...

Saffire Persian
16th December 2005, 1:04 AM
Personally, I think description can go either way, though it often leans toward "overrated". But, I think it all matters on what the Author is writing about -- what Genre, what type of scene...

For instance, most Horror relies very much on description, I think, to set the tone of the story.

Fantasy also leans on it a great deal.

Also, one would also have to consider the author's writing style. Sometimes, it's in the authors disposition to write long, elegant prose full of description. (Serpent Syra, anyone?). Tolkien (Author of Lord of the Rings) was also a master in this aspect. It was true that all that description wasn't necessarily needed, but it was part of his style, and I don't think the books would have the same feel without it.

Willow's Tara
16th December 2005, 3:09 AM
You know sometimes I think maybe you shoould leave it to the reader's imagtion, let them think whatever,m if they want to picture themselves as Hamlet and thier girlfriend as Opheila then let them.

I agree with the desciption, like If I am writing Touched, which has a serious element to it, you aren't gonn stop and describe the caracters full when a girl is on the floor after being attacked and the boy who found her is crying over her body.
Of course I did something like that because I thought i had top, but I do think that it is Overrated and some people execpt too much, I mean I don't always read descriptiond and all when I read, because I want to get to the action and speaking.