There are different flavors of readers out there, this I know. Some prefer lush, detailed descriptions of settings, characters, and any other item that come across the page. And then there are those in the other camp who gag and go cross-eyed when they are subjected to that level of attention. Heck, I had the two opposite extremes reading my first draft, and I know both readers read a LOT of books.
So on my constant quest for improvement, I’ve decided to err on the side of caution and go with less description. My reasoning: I’d rather leave people wanting a bit more than have them be repulsed and put the book down.
Here’s my dilemma. I know I have a problem with bad transitions. And when I get feedback from a critique partner asking for more, I start to question whether more is necessary in order to make the scene make sense or if it’s just a personal preference of the reader. In the mix of all the writing advice I’ve read online, the phrase “the reader isn’t stupid” has stuck in my mind. This tells me that some things the reader will assume or figure out on their own, without explicitly stating the details.
That brings me to one critique partner’s feedback. She’s super thorough and makes me think of stuff that hadn’t crossed my mind. Such as military leaders wouldn’t go out and meet an unknown threat. I always assumed a good leader would lead from the front, not ask his men to do something he wouldn’t do himself, and be the one to deal with and solve problems. Well, apparently, that’s not the case. But that’s not the topic today.
The paragraph in question from chapter 10:
Protesters rallied together on the palace steps, raising chants of “not our war” with fists beating at the sun and blue sky. There were at least two hundred men accompanied by a number of women and an occasional child. The central speaker was a man Kaio was unfortunately familiar with.
Can you set this stage a little more? What does the palace look like? If we’re seeing the central speaker from Kaio’s perspective, how do we know where Kaio is in relation to this scene?
I don’t think a description of the palace is necessary, because I gave a bit of the internal palace description back in chapter 6. But what about Kaio’s location? Do I need to explicitly state he’s at the very top of the steps, just walking out of the palace? I assumed that the reader would assume Kaio would come from the inside of the palace, since that’s where he spends most of his time, and had been inside the palace in the scene before. But is this not the case? Is this a bad transition?
This isn’t the first time I’ve received “Where is this person/item in relation to the character/something else?” feedback from my CP.
Such as this from chapter 9:
He found Alissandria conversing with her brother in the hall. Alistair flashed a smile when Derek approached. “Ah, Derek, fetch the carriage, will you?”
Derek shuffled down the stairs and out into the yard. He rubbed his face, trying to clear the lingering haze.
An odd silence weighed down the usually active morning market, emphasizing the lack of cheerful chatter. Townspeople exchanged furtive glances and spoke in hushed whispers. All of them avoided prolonged eye contact.
“What’s with all the tension?” asked Derek, as he paid the stable master.
I think all of this might make more sense if we already had an idea of where the house is in relation to the village and that the house is small enough not to have its own stable.
Is it a bad transition? I don’t know. I can’t tell.
I’ve begun the hunt for a developmental editor. I’m not skilled enough to know what is a matter of style or content or clarity or just personal preference. I know I’m not great at setting the stage for scenes. But I question if it’s really necessary in some cases, or if it’s just fluff. I know I can’t please all readers all the time, but I’m starting to creep into the areas where I’m asking if it negatively affects the reader’s understanding of events.