• Excellent topic, Garry. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. As a budding novelist myself, I find myself torn between stylistic demands. Some critics want more description in my stories, but then I listen to talks from writers like John Gilstrap or read novels by Elmore Leonard or Walter Mosley and feel comfortable sticking to the story. In the end, doesn’t it depend to a great extent on genre? Mystery readers for example, probably want the cinematic version, while “literary” readers want to see what kind of drapes cover the windows as well as explore each of the layers that cover the characters’ souls.

    • Garry Craig Powell

      Thank you, Peter. Yes, of course you’re right that it depends on genre to some extent. In general, a mystery has to move fast, though there are wonderful exceptions, like Peter Hoeg’s “Smilla’s Sense of Snow”. Actually I think that even ‘literary’ readers don’t want unnecessary description; very few people will tolerate it if it’s merely decorative. The description has to serve a purpose: it should either inform the action–for instance, in a battle, an understanding of the terrain and weather will be critical–or else, depending on who is moving through the setting, it should give us insight to the character of the person viewing it. For example, a Bedu tribesman will see the desert in a totally different way from a western tourist who’s on vacation in Dubai and takes a weekend trip into it. Conversely, the best thriller writers manage to reveal quite a lot of character depth, even when they appear to sticking strictly to the action. I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong way, just an appropriate one for the kind of story being told–which is what you’re saying too, of course!