How much detail is too much detail? How much is too little?

I’m looking over my writing again and I always get this “something is missing” feeling. I’m not sure if I have too much detail, too little detail or if I’m just being overly critical.

How would YOU define an appropriate amount of detail in terms that are universal to everyone?

Obviously describing a lamp shade with seven paragraphs is too much (unless that is one very significant plot related lamp shade, I guess) but likewise ‘it’s pink’ is probably way too little on its own.


I listen to feedback from my readers.

I will ask them, specifically, if I am concerned about this.

Otherwise, I go on my instinct, which has been serving me quite well for a long time now.


What do you do if you’ve got relatively little or no feedback? Is that a good sign or a bad one? Or just is?

I mean for someone to visualize something, you don’t need to write long,long paragraphs.
But try your best to make it clear to some readers.

I mean to describe a room just say something like this–

You open the door to the room, a beat old couch behind the door, a small light flickering from above your head.
You travel through the room trying to find what your looking for. You notice the room is small, crowded on the floor, old cigarettes on the floor, heaps of trash everywhere. The stench is probably from it…

If you can imagine something from your writing then your good! :grin:


Honestly, the way I do it is, when I finish writing a scene, I let it marinate for a while. Then, I give it a read after I’m done doing something else, other than writing. If it still clicks, then I keep it; otherwise, I just make alterations to whatever felt awkward.

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It is a lot of work to build up a core feedback loop.

This thread can be a starting point, and I have evolved my perspective on IF specific issues a bit since 2018, but there are good posts from @malinryden and others in the thread to read


For me, it’s a combination of two things:

1: What would the MC focus on.
2: What do you need the reader to notice.

For example, in most scenes, I don’t think a lampshade would even be mentioned. It’s not something most people look at first in a room. Just mentioning a lampshade might make the reader hyperfocus on that. However, a lampshade might be worthy of being mentioned if there’s a reason for it.

“The lampshade is a horrible shade of pink, obviously the person who lives here have no sense of style.”
“The pink lampshade is askew and a frilly pillow rests on the floor, which makes you wonder of something has happened here. Was there a fight?”

In the first sentence there’s a value judgement, which tells you something of both the MC and the place they are in. In the second, the lampshade is used to direct the reader towards something, possibly leading into a choice later.

Remember, you are in control of the scene. If you feel something is missing, you are probably right.

Take a moment to ask yourself WHY you describe something. If the answer is only “because it’s there,” then it can probably go. If you say “You walk into a messy living room,” people will imagine what that looks like. No need to describe that there is a couch, a television, a carpet and a lamp until they need to be interacted with in some way.

Then take a moment to ask WHAT the MC is taking from this? It can be feelings, judgment, memories, anything. If the MC is neutral towards things and none of the objects are important the scene can probably be solved in a sentence to get to the scene you want to write. Something like “You hurry through the messy living room, looking for the back door. You need to get out of here.”


I’m also now wondering how many lampshades there is in the room, since it had to be identified that the pink lampshade is askew, and whether or not the story expects me to remember the color.


As a side note, the lampshade is just an example. There are no lampshades currently mentioned in my WiP. I’m just bad at examples.

But now I’m putting one in and I will make it relevant to the plot somehow; strictly for the memes.

And thanks @Eiwynn , that thread will help I think. The silence isn’t necessarily bad but as I mentioned, I’m extremely critical of my own work.