This is probably one of my bigger struggles. Usually on the not enough side. I mean, everything makes sense in my head, how is it my fault you’re not in here with me?
But, precisely because I struggle with it I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and researching and annotating my favourite books to try and understand.
And from what I can tell, it’s difficult to have too much description, as long as the description is accompanied by movement.
Allow me to demonstrate:
The table was long, dark wood. It was solid and extremely heavy. The chairs were of matching wood but with bright coloured cushions that seemed out of place. Atop the table were plain white plates, silver cutlery to the sides and cold metal empty cups.
Elena sat at the table. It was long enough if she were to sit at one end she would not be able to make out the person at the other, far less hear what they had to say. She tapped her fingers on the darkly coloured wood which matched the chairs. She fidgeted, the cushions were as uncomfortable as they were unattractive. Colours that did not match the wood in the slightest. She stared down at her plate, white and empty. Her stomach rumbled and she tried to imagine what food would appear on it when the time came.
Her hand wrapped around her cup, for a moment she was excited, she lifted it, it was heavy and cold. Unfortunately, it was not filled to the brim with liquid. Empty. It was just the metal that weighted it down and gave it the cold feel.
Disappointed she abandoned the cup and leaned back in her seat, waiting not very patiently for the others to arrive.
Obviously this would work better with a character or a scene we care to hear about. One that’s going somewhere. But I think it gets the point across. The first paragraph is just details, details with nowhere to go. The second brings those details together with a character, they tell a story. You can get away with being far more descriptive than you realice, just don’t drop all those details at the beginning of the chapter and expect your reader to pick them up and be able to hold on to them.
Make sure your description makes sense, make sure it’s as much a part of the story as the characters.
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So, do you anotate books? I struggle to do it the first time round, often I have to read twice to truly pay attention but then of course I have context so it’s not the same.