Description: How much is too much?
I popped over to Donna Weavers blog today and she had a great post about how much description to use and what to leave to the reader’s imagination.
Donna wrote about her stepmother who creates beautiful flower arrangements—but Donna struggles to. I like this comparison because I think the rules of design can be applicable to writing.
There are many design rules, but one I use when I’m designing a room or a flower arrangement is the Rule of Three.
The Rule of Three: Use three things to add depth and diversity. So if I was doing a flower arrangement I would look for:
Size: I use different sized flowers. Your eye always notices the biggest first, but the other fill in the blank space. How this applies to writing description: Readers always notice the obvious first—tall, small, black, or white. But if you use description well it will fill in the blank space of your story, adding to mood, setting, voice and even plot.
Color: Use an odd number of colors—one-three-five, I usually never go over five. How this applies to writing description: Just like color a little goes a long way—I think one or two well constructed sentences of description goes a long way.
Shape: Use different shapes. In flower arrangements shapes add texture. They challenge the eyes. How this applies to writing description: Use all five senses to describe. Multiple sensations add texture to a story.
My biggest complaint about description is that it can sometimes sound like a check list: Tall—check. Dark—check. Handsome—check. Yikes—check.
I love well done description. It can be some of the most memorable parts for me.