My opinion is that it I not always necessary to put in a lot of specific details. A story that is specific about every little detail leaves nothing up to the imagination of the reader, and that kill immersion for me sometimes. This is particularly true of gory scenes or descriptions of dead bodies or other things of similar nature. I think it is better to say that there is a room with five dead bodies missing various limbs as if hacked off in combat than it is to say the character enters a room and sees five dead bodies, one missing a left arm that looks to have been removed by an axe, one missing a leg that appears to have been cut off by a sword, etc. Those details are not things that the author has to include, and I hate reading things like that because it serves no purpose to the plot, and if it tells all the wounds, in the case of a story meant to be scary, there’s nothing left to imagination and the story is suddenly not scary because nothing the author can say about various wounds being absolutely explicit about it can be scarier than what the reader can imagine happened with no confirmation to the contrary.
I don’t think it is necessary with a sexual scene to include every detail either. I don’t think anybody would be turned on by a scene meant to be arousing that has the specific inches that “go in and out” with every pump and what fractional amount of tongue is used for things.
For me, specific details about everything can mean a few things:
- The author thinks the reader is too stupid or unimaginative to imagine what is going on themselves without being told exactly how everything happens and how everything looks.
- The author is insecure about their writing, and they think if they don’t explicitly say everything, nobody will understand what they are saying.
- The author cares too much about trying to make sure that everybody who reads has the exact same experience as every other person reading, something I think should not happen.
- The author is desperate to “prove themselves” as a writer by saying EXACTLY what is happening so that the readers know that the author knows exactly what he wants them to “see.”
- The author is simply trying too hard to be narrative. They might think that they have to include everything in order to make the story cohesive, and maybe they are worried about critics poking holes in their writing.
There are some cases, however, when explicit details are necessary.
When there is a subtle foreshadowing effect going on that a very close reader will pick up on and they will be able to figure out some sort of detail that would otherwise be overlooked. Mystery books come to mind with this- some very specific details about some things might reveal to a reader who robbed the royal ambassador before the characters figure out who it is.
Also, a combat scene that is meant to really engage the reader and let them see the flashing blades going back and forth, let them see the whirling capes of the swordsmen, might need the explicit details to allow a person to really be a part of the duel and see it as the writer pictured it.
Either way, I think the very explicit details are only appropriate for specific scenes and small segments at a time. Too much detail is just that: too much. It gets tedious to read it.