Jan 12, 2013

Random Rambles: Settings and Descriptions: The Fine Line

I'm currently reading Stitch by Samantha Durante, and the way it is written with vivid descriptions and a complete immersion into the main character's surroundings got me thinking about the setting of a novel. I feel it is an aspect of a story that can be taken for granted or even forgotten in the midst of the emotions of the characters and transpiring events...

However, if the element of the environment is lacking, we tend to feel lost as readers, unable to picture what our characters see and experience.

I love the way Durante describes the view from Alessa's perspective. The descriptions may have little to contribute in the way of the story line itself, but they create this tangible world that draws us in, opening a bridge from our universe to the one within the pages.

"As Alessa stepped out onto the quad, she breathed deep and let the crisp fall evening was over her. ... Her head felt clearer than it had all afternoon as the cool November air lightly stung her eyes and worked its way from her lungs into her bloodstream, bringing the feeling back to her limbs. ... Wandering her way across the quad, Alessa headed toward Van Husen Hall, hoping the student-run cafe in the basement was still open. Leaves crunched beneath her feet as Alessa made her way towards the stately brick building ahead of her. The facade was laced with ivy and decked by massive old-growth trees still clinging to their last clumps of foliage as winter threatened to descend. The facilities department had carefully placed up-lighting behind the trees, highlighting the building's grand turn-of-the-century architecture and casting dramatic shadows across the entrance. The campus was beautiful, that much she had to admit." Loc 156

We can hear the crunching of the leaves; envision the steam of our breath as it releases into the cold air; see the glow of the light behind the ancient trees. This little excerpt made me feel rejuvenated when I read it, as if I had plunged myself into the autumn air right alongside Alessa.

We can see where Alessa's life is at the moment ~ on this gorgeous college campus ~ and the rest is easy. The author takes the time to build up the world for the reader, so when we get going with the story and dive into Alessa's emotions and experiences, we can thoroughly envision the atmosphere and surroundings, because it's already been laid out for us.

There is a fine line, however, between just enough description and too much. Example: Anne Rice's The Wolf Gift. I couldn't get into this novel because the author decided to describe every little detail with painful scrutiny ~ which is fabulous and beautiful the first time around, but after the fifth or sixth time, it can get redundant. Love detailed descriptions, but the abundance of them in this novel made it difficult for me to imagine anything else besides the man/wolf ~ I couldn't always place him because I'd get so lost in the paragraphs upon paragraphs of his transformations that I'd forget where he was.

(I'm not comparing these two books or the authors, or saying one is better than the other, as the differences are expansive; I'm simply using them as examples. Just FYI... *smile*)

I'm not really sure there's even a point to this entire post. LOL. I'm really just thinking "out loud." I guess what I can gather from my pondering is that settings and descriptions create the core of a novel, something on which the story can position itself, but if an author gets carried away with one or the other, everything about the novel begins to feel off-kilter. There's a fine line between too much and not enough, and finding that middle ground can make all the difference to a reader.

Happy Reading Everyone :)

~ Keely ~


  1. I think this topic is relative to the reader. For example Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy to me feels overly descriptive, leaving nothing to the imagination. 4 pages describing a fricking wedding gown & the bridal trousseau?!

    Others disagree, they feel the detailed descriptions enhances their reading experience, making the setting 3D.

    To each his own.

    Happy weekend!
    Talk Supe

  2. @Braine TS I think you're right ~ it's all in what your preference is. LOL I loved Deb Harkness' Discovery of Witches, but I know what you mean.. It could get winded at times... Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hey Keely! Thanks so much for the praise of Stitch. :-) You're SO right about the fine line thing, and as Braine said, it definitely depends so much on the reader's preference. I've gotten such mixed feedback on the level of description in Stitch - many people felt exactly the same you did, but many others also felt it was too much. As a reader, I personally lean towards liking things to be more descriptive (hence my writing style...) b/c I like an immersive world where I can really feel like I'm there with the characters (and in Stitch in particular, I also used a lot of those little details to hint at clues or parallels between the real world and the drama world). But I definitely have to be pretty brutal during the editing process to make sure that whatever I'm describing really adds something to the story! Anyway, very insightful post, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!


I so appreciate you taking the time to comment :) It really means so much to me!! Thanks for stopping by!