2

While writing a novel, which is a drama, how do I manage the amount of trivial details or trivial information, that I want to give to help the readers visualize the scene but given the details have no relevance to the overall plot?

For e.g. same paragraph in my novel,

I just slept in my room for two days straight, neither did I wanted to go out nor did I bothered myself to do it. I searched online for houses for rent, mostly shared houses to share with other people, I was bit scared to live all by myself, it would have been another ordeal. In those two days I shortlisted some 4-5 different houses listed online, I had to make sure that they are also close to my job location at West Cliff road

which I can also write as,

I just slept in my room no 13 which was on the first floor facing the sea, for two days straight, neither did I wanted to go out nor did I bothered myself to do it. I searched online on different websites like gumtree and housing.com for houses for rent, mostly shared houses to share with other people, students or professionals, I was bit scared to live all by myself, it would have been another ordeal. In those two days I shortlisted some 4-5 different houses listed online, I had to make sure that they are also close to my job location at West Cliff road near ASDA.

How should one determine at what point the information will be taken as boring and till what point will it help to give the picture of the scene?

5

The lesson I took away from learning a list of common bad writing practices, and the reasons why they disengage readers, is that writing right saves you time on your first draft if you can bake the rules into your writing style. Every sentence I write and every scene I put together is with a mind towards not having to delete parts of it later (though of course sometimes I fail). Part of this is that, because I always know what is coming soon and I want to get there fast, I don't ramble and I don't waste the reader's time.

That's why I'm glad you gave a short vs verbose example, because I feel you can and should go even further. I would have written something more like this:

For two days all I could bring myself to do was research rentables from my bed. Everything near enough to my job meant sharing. Good, less scary.

See how everything you really wanted us to know comes out of that?

This example illustrates how certain pieces of standard writing advice complement each other. How do you avoid excess details? Let the reader infer them; in other words, you show instead of telling. Readers like to unpack what you've written and visualise the world however their mind sees fit, and (as I've explained before) they like to get inside people's heads as practice for the real world. (I've also discussed some advantages of showing here.)

So how do you limit details? Very simply, ask yourself whether a detail is worth your time as a writer to include, given what you're achieving already with your economic words and what you want people to take away from the sentence, the paragraph, the scene, the chapter. You'll often find yourself adding details later, when they're relevant. (For example, in my WIP I've revealed several details of a poor family's shoddy home, not by describing the whole thing the first time we see it, but seeing what they bring up in heated arguments, warnings to visitors, their insecurities etc.) So don't worry that you're not writing enough or would have to manually expand sentences when you're redrafting; neither of those will be a problem.

2

While it is technically arbitrary, and you are allowed to include however many details you want, I would stick to including details that are somehow relevant.

Is it important that it's apartment 13? is apartment 13 unlucky, cursed? does MC feel unlucky?

Is it important that it's facing the sea? maybe your character likes the sea. Maybe they hate it. If they have no opinion of the sea, it probably isn't relevant, and you probably don't need to include it.

I think specific details like "I searched www.website.com for houses" is probably not very relevant. You want to give details that are either important to the setting or to your character. The ocean might be important to both. housing.com is probably important to neither.

2

Ask yourself which information is going to be relevant later, either as a misdirection (a red herring) or actually is required for plot point/foreshadowing. If a detail isn't relevant to either, ask 'is it interesting/charming'? Even if you think it is, question yourself again and again.

If it's not misdirection, if it's not foreshadowing/set-up, and if it's not directly related to the actions of the current scene, and there's nothing of interest it could add, then it's chaff. Cut it.

As Anton Chekhov said, 'If there's a gun described as on the wall in the first act, it must go off in the third.'

If not? Don't include it.

0

Only two things should be at the forefront when sharing detail.

  1. Does it impact the characters development in anyway, or is it something they experience in that moment that can express a reaction?

  2. Does it matter to the progression of the plot, either in direct plot or foreshadowing?

Great writing is watching a world unfold as your characters experience the story that unfolds in front of them. The trick to it is that world, and story is impacted every step of the way by the characters experience, so if you’re not sure if it’s relevant, ask yourself if your character cares, and if not, ask if that may change when your character encounters that detail later.

Don’t give all the information and context right up front either. Readers can fill in a massive amount of information, and small guiding details of context can help them feel like they can trust you to eventually build the whole picture, but they don’t need it every step of the way.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy