Details are important elements that help your readers visualize your story. They are vital to fleshing out the characteristics of a person, place or thing in your story. When you close your eyes and picture the scene that you are working on, you need to see it in your mind’s eye. You will want to call on the use of all your senses and maybe past experiences relating to touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight.
Of course, this is all based on your readers knowledge of the places and events of the story. I remember, as an eight year old, hearing my teacher read aloud the story of Charlotte’s Web. Having no idea what a farm was, I set the story in my own suburban neighborhood, with little detraction from the plot!
If, for example, you are trying to describe an apple, you will need to first decide on whether your apple is fresh, sweet and crisp or soft, tasteless and past its prime. Your apple might be green or red and it could have a stem or even a leaf attached to it. However, your readers won’t know unless you write about it.
Is there such a thing as too much detail? I have had other writers tell me that there are some things that should be left to the reader’s imagination. It’s like watching a black and white movie and having to try and picture the colors of the flowers in a garden, the furnishings in a ornate mansion, clothing worn by the actors, etc. Those would be nice bits of information to have, but they are not vital to the story.
So, the answer to the question, (Is there such a thing as too much detail?) depends on your answer to the following:
1. Are the details you’re adding essential to the scene or emotion that you, as the story teller, wish to convey?
2. Does the information provided in your description add to the story, or does it detract from it, and bog it down?
That is a decision you must make as you work on your writing skills. Try to keep your reader’s enjoyment and satisfaction at the forefront.