Once upon a time I believed the more details you wrote into a story the better it would be. I firmly believed in descriptiveness. The more the better.
Anton Chekov said something like, “Don’t tell me the moon had risen, tell me about how you see the glint of the moon’s shine in the mirror of a glass..” or some such prose. The quote is not correct, nor is it complete, but you get the idea.
It is a good idea, but one taken way too far, often by people such as me. We forget the reader has a mind of their own. An imagination as well. Imagination is what fuels a reader’s desires to read a book.
You doubt me? Each person that read the Harry Potter books did so through the lens of their imagination. Rowling did an incredible job of using details in such a way, and the lack of them as well, to fuel the reader’s imagination.
Each person who read the books saw each character in their own way. Pictured each detail in their own way. A person reading the book in London pictured an entirely different story then a child in Iowa or an old man in Delhi.
That is the wonder of books. No matter how much a writer may want to portray a person as one thing, often their writing portrays details that causes a character to be completely different.
I believe this all comes down to the amount of detail used in a story. There is a balance to writing that if done right allows the writer to start the character but lets the reader complete them. It is something King says about writing. Let the reader finish the descriptions in their own mind.
Details are all important in a story. The amount or type is equally important. I have stopped trying to get every last detail about a person, place, or thing into a story. I like starting the characters and letting the reader complete the description in their mind.
Of course, if your story is so good, they want to make a movie out of it, then the details often are left behind. The characters are created by a director and an actor who was chosen by the casting director, who they feel will be the best person to portray the character.
Several large production movies have suffered from poor casting that required last minute changes. Changes in characters and actors to hopefully produce what the producers and directors want to portray from the book they are depicting.
Which brings me to the detail most overlook when they see the opening credits of a movie or series. The credits will say it was “based upon a book” by so and so. Based upon, not totally faithful to the actual book.
Writers are hired to create a script that can be filmed in time requirements with a budget. Which is why often the book is far better than the movie. The books allow our imagination to flow whereas the movie or series follow a series of ideas fashioned by the writers and director under the producer’s constant worry about budgets.
None of this impacts a book writer or an author. Most of those who write start out with nothing but an idea and a half-assed story. Then they begin the task of creating endless worlds of wonder. Don’t get me wrong. I adore movies and good series. However, in the end, I choose books with the imagination factors over something where all the imagination has been removed and replaced with what someone else thinks the story should be.
What details will a script writer remove from the movies? In most of the movies based upon J.R. R. Tolkien books; many items are removed. Key characters like Tom Bombadil and the thoughts of the giant spider are removed. So many parts to remove but then they add parts that were never there. In the latest reimagining of The Hobbit a love triangle was inserted between a dwarf, an elf, and Legolas. None of which were in the book to begin with. Why include such details?
In the end, details make or break a book or a movie or a series. How much detail do you need to get the idea across? Do you tease a reader or viewer with trickles of ideas or imbue the story with a rich tapestry of detail designed to make the reader fall into the story and never forget it?
I think the amount of detail is entirely up to the type of story being told. Of course, I cut that in half now when I write because I do want to the reader to start with my ideas but finish with theirs.
Just for the record, Tolkien’s Elvish is a particularly romantic language, which is why I am so glad he created it. It was a detail that was not needed but what would the stories have been without it?
I’m Ross, the Editor-in-Chief of The Pyrateheart Press and I’m out.