How Much Description Do You Like in a Novel?

As an author, I can’t help comparing my style with the style of the books I read as I read them. Yes, there are times when I get frustrated with a book because I feel like it could have written it better (being completely honest here), but there are times when I’m blown away and wonder if I could ever write that well. Of course, there are also plenty of times when I look at writing and just think it’s a matter of taste. I personally get bored with too much description, and so I often don’t have nearly as much of it as some other books I read.

Is that just me? Because if it’s just me, then I’m doing my writing a big disservice by not giving my readers the sort of content they’d like. My goal is happy readers, after all. I write to entertain, not to change lives. (That’s what the blog’s for, right? Just think of all the countless lives I’ve . . . oh wait.) When I’m reading a book, and I see the next few paragraphs are just talking about what a person looked like or what the room was like, I switch over to skim mode. It’s just not that interesting to me. I want to see what happened. What people thought. What they did. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to know what it looks like, but I think my writing is often very action-based. I want people to see what’s happening. They can fill in the details about hairstyles and the like on their own.

I think this is one reason I write in first person, as when I’m telling stories in real life, I also skimp on description. It just feels to me like a person telling a story to someone else isn’t going to have huge long asides to describe every little detail of a room or a setting or a person’s dress. (Honestly, it doesn’t help me much at all that I struggle to tell faces apart in real life, and that I am a very unobservant person when it comes to fashion. As I think about it, these issues might be the biggest reason my descriptions often end up being pretty terse.)

Clearly some people love description, as it’s in great abundance in plenty of books I read. Where do you fall on that spectrum?

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