To describe or not to describe

I know, I know – readers don’t like description. Keep world-building to a minimum. Show don’t tell. Don’t write a page and a half describing the city. Readers don’t like it.

Yet – I do. You know Dicken’s description of a foggy London at the start of Bleak House? It’s intoxicating to me. Left Hand of Darkness spends two thirds of the book world-building and I’m enchanted. Victor Hugo takes a break at the most exciting part of the story to describe the Paris sewers and I am reluctantly fascinated. I often feel I am a bad reader, because I adore long descriptions.

The description must fulfil a service though. Dickens description sets the tone for the whole book. The world-building lays a very complex stage for a wonderful story. The Paris sewers description both gives a break from the tension of the previous scenes and lays the groundwork for the scenes that happen down there.

I know if you write a long description, your editor will tell you to cut it, and heavy-hearted, you will. And yet – if you choose to leave it in, this is one reader who will be happy.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad

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