Monday, July 9, 2012

Do You Like The Details?

While at my critique group on Saturday, we got into a discussion about readers attention spans and how the industry believes that everyone's is short now a days. I beg to differ. I agree that most of that argument started with writing young adult books (YA), but I still believe that people, no matter what their age, like detail, and most of all, like a good build up.

I have read several new books lately, and the ones that held my interest were the ones who left you with anticipation, and falling in love with the richness of the characters. It did not matter if the book was written by a new author or someone with quite a few novels under their belt, the ones that kept me reading were the ones that built up the story, then taking you into the climax, wanting it to not end.

I cannot understand why publishers want you to cut out half of the build up so that you can cut to the chase, to the whole purpose of the story...well the end of it as far as I'm concerned. Even some movies today have left me feeling unsatisfied and with no emotion.

My examples that prove the industry wrong are good ones, ones that you will have you stop and think, 'yeah, those were the best and still are'. 

Harry Potter, could you imagine these books without the wonderful detail that J.K. Rollings wrote? How about the newest hot books, Game of Thrones? George R. R. Martin gave us so much detail and brought to life how many characters?! You fall in love with his characters, good or evil.

Wait, there's more...Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Alien, Angels and Demons, The DaVinci Code, just to name a few. The novels that ended up becoming popular movies and we just can't seem to get enough of, those are the ones that you run to the store or order a head of time on Amazon so that you can dive back into these worlds and enjoy the ride.

I understand about tightening the writing, to take out unnecessary words and long sentences, but to cut out scenes so that you can go straight to action is not only wrong, but takes out the very heart and soul of the story. I mean don't you want a good roller coaster ride in the story? Don't you want to experience what the character is going through and feel the richness of the story? Don't you love it when a book grabs you and you have a hard time putting it down because you just have to read one more chapter? I do. 

So my argument is don't take away from your story because someone tells you it should be all action. There needs to be a build up, and something happens, then that is solved. Then do it again, until the final climax that is stretched out a little longer until the reader can't stand it any longer. Tease them, make it where they come back for more. That to me is good writing and reading, and even movie making. Not, just action, but detail, richness, description, and above all, ringing true. Where you can put yourself there, actually in the story and feel what the character is experiencing and then you have your sympathy for that character, good or evil.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you gone to a new movie lately and been disappointed? Especially one that depicts a series you've read, such as the Hunger Games, or Twilight? Even one's that weren't books. Are you left feeling empty and wondering what the director was thinking? Or even picked up a book and a few chapters in, you are confused by too many characters, or not enough detail so that you know what is happening? 

Drop me a line and let me in on your thoughts. I think it's time for the industry to come back to good stories and not ruin them with the thought that people can't sit that long in a movie or won't read that long of a book. I have plenty of examples to prove them wrong.

Love, Lisa


  1. I absolutely agree with you, Lisa. There has to be some tension in the story, and as you say, anticipation... Otherwise the interest of the reader is lost. I love long books and long movies provided that they have the momentum that leads you up to the ending of the story; it is not just details, it the development of characters, setting etc... To me this is still important, as a reader AND a writer...

  2. I know what you mean about getting so engrossed in the characters that you don't want the book to end. More than once I've reluctantly read the last page, knowing I was leaving the town and people I'd come to love. I don't care what length it is as long as it's a good story; that's why I am a fan of James Michener and the worlds he created for us.

  3. Thanks Petchary for your comment, and I believe writers are being misled. I don't know why the publishers wouldn't want a rich book that will take people away and eventually become popular. I would think that would create better sales.

  4. Thanks Linda for your thoughts! There is nothing better, in my opinion, than a great book! I want to become involved with the characters and feel as though I am there in this make believe world!

  5. My granddaughter stopped viewing the 'twilight' movies after the second one. She was so disappointed in how they had left out or amalgamated parts she loved reading in the books.

  6. I agree Hazel, it bums you out when they cut so much and when there is low quality. Thanks for your post!

  7. Lisa, I totally agree! My first novel was almost 500 pages, but I felt I needed all the information for the story I was telling. My readers seem to agree, and NO ONE has told me the book was too long. I think the short attention span we're seeing is a result of the way we receive information instantly through e-mail, texts, etc. It's sort of a "give it to me now" mentality. When I'm lost in a good book, I don't want it to end. A good book can be as long as it wants. One of my favorites, "A Suitable Boy", is 1500 pages. Okay, a bit excessive, but so engrossing that I wouldn't have cut any of it out.

  8. Exactly Jeanette, but that doesn't mean our books and movies need to be the same. At least for me, it takes away from either. Thanks for the comment and I do enjoy huge books too! Game of Thrones series! ;-)

  9. Hi Lisa. I think this is a great blog post! Very true. And sometimes I think, even agents, publsihers and other "experts" are just telling us writers what THEY think how a book should be. Most of the time it's a matter of taste - and in my experience in several cases: jealousy. LOL
    Keep it up. I like your writing style!

  10. Thanks Raani, and I agree, I don't understand why they do what they do, but agree! Thanks for the post!

  11. Hi Lisa, better late than never. You know how I feel about detail in books. I'm revising mine from almost 900 pages and, in the end, it will probably be around 500-600.

    I love detail. I love that the characters have an ordinary life that I can relate to as well as the out of the ordinary that happens to them. I love detail in scenery that puts me in the story.

    In life we have everyday, mundane acts that lead up to extraordinary events. We have multiple friends, have ups and downs, we cook, do the laundry, clean. As writers we don't have to dwell on those, but they are the things that our readers can relate to and empathize with the character about.

    I like that Bella did the laundry and dishes. I like that the Fellowship of the Ring sat around a campfire and ate, argued about food, smoked their pipes, and sang. I like that Dracula prepared a meal for Jonathan Harker. I like that Victor Frankenstein danced, got married, was ill. I like the card parties, the preparing of food, cleaning houses and taking care of children in The Help. There are so many other examples.

    Why should we take the things out that we relate to? Disregard the tactile properties of our environment, the rich colors and smells of our worlds? The elements, the clean and dirty parts of life? Action is all well and good, but there are very basic things that lead up to the outstanding things in life.

    Some of my most favorite books are well over 500 pages and rife with detail. Instant gratification is so fleeting. It leaves nothing behind to contemplate or remember.

    Thank you for this post and the responses assure me that there are many people who feel the same. They are the ones who will pick up our books and read them.


  12. That's absolutely right Robin and I agree wholeheartedly!