A while back, I wrote a post about how details are the key to writing ourselves out of cliché. I shared my take on what a cliché is and how we, as writers, can weed them out.
The very first response I got to that post was from a reader who said he has been accused of using cliché descriptions but who countered with the argument:
I [would] rather hear: easy reading & page turner, instead of “long and unexpected way to describe a deranged mind. Figurative but way too long. Almost put it aside”
I have to admit, there is definitely something to that.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I’m a big believer in not finishing books that don’t grab you (check out my post on 3 Reasons It’s Okay to Stop Reading That Book if you’re curious). On occasion, I will admit to tiring of a book because of the unending descriptions.
So I wanted to write a post about choosing our details wisely to avoid detail overload, which can be just as bad for a story as a boatload of clichés.
Trust One Detail
I love that quote because it supports the idea of digging deep for telling details, while at the same time removing any excess that would weigh a story down.
A teacher of mine once said something similar. She said that on our first drafts we should go ahead and drop in all the hyperbolic language we want, to likewise write in all “sky blue” and “fire engine red” clichés that come to mind. It doesn’t matter on the first draft. Those tired images can work just fine as place holders. But when we go back, we should try to edit our writing down to just one perfect adjective. Cut the rest.
That same teacher encouraged us writers to think outside the normal descriptions we already have in our heads. Light doesn’t just shine. It can smooth, dance, and scrape. Consider the homunculus pine tree or the lank marsupial. One of the more fun parts of writing is putting words together in unusual ways, then editing, editing, editing.