HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU SPEND ON DESCRIBING THE SCENERY

As a new writer to the genre, an editor recently commented "your first chapter is beginning to sound like a travelogue." I thought once I set the scene, I needed to spend some time describing the area so the reader could get a feel for it. Michael McGarrity spends a bit of time on describing Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and Sue Grafton not only describes the places she's driving by on the highway, but tells you what turnoff she takes. Is there a happy medium for this?

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Depends whether you, the author, is 'telling' the reader what the place looks like - or you're having your characters move through the landscape, interact with it, trip over bits of it, fall into it, etc.
It always comes down to 'show don't tell'.
Lindy, You hit it right on the money. I have to admit I've been 'telling', giving bits of (what I thought were) interesting historical facts attached to the place where the murders occurred.
It depends on the scenery. If it's a mall parking lot, not so much. If it's moonrise over Provincetown harbor in late May seen over the rim of a very large and very full martini glass, somewhat more.
I try to spend as much time as possible, providing as little detail as necessary. I'm a big fan of "less is more" and want to activate my readers' imagination rather than impose upon them.
It depends on a lot of things, really, but mostly it depends on how much detail the story calls for. A mall parking lot, for example, might call for quite a bit of description, depending on the circumstances: the texture of the pavement against an unfortunate face; the pool of blood glistening under the sodium vapor lights; the sound of a skull being smashed against a windshield...

Description generally slows the pace. Don't describe things just for the hell of it. Describe things because your story demands it.
Or describe them because they're worth seeing; because setting is as much a part of the story as plot and character, because we owe the reader a fully realized fictional universe--or as close to it as we can get in 300 pages. I stop the climactic chase scene at the end of my new book dead in its tracks and spend about a page (in manuscript) describing the dildo room in the back of the local headshop; it's not necessary to the story--in fact it's self-conscious excess; I could set the climax anywhere in a three or four mile radius. I set it in the dildo room because it's funny, but also because it's a weird, cool atmospheric, it's a thematic tie-in, it's iconic to P'town, and it fits with the image-set in the rest of the book. All you self-proclaimed minimalists should go back and re-read Chandler: he spends whole pages on description of people and places. It's part of what makes him great.
Wow. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a dildo room.

Hope I never accidently wander into one.

Especially on a first date.

Chandler and Fitzgerald were great, but they didn't have to compete with TV. I think today's audiences are less tolerant when it comes to long descriptive passages.
Hope I never accidently wander into one.

Especially on a first date.


Well, it would depend somewhat on the nature of the date, no?

Chandler and Fitzgerald were great, but they didn't have to compete with TV. I think today's audiences are less tolerant when it comes to long descriptive passages.

I'm not worried about competing with TV. I'm worried about competing with Chandler and Fitzgerald. Lotsa luck, right? Still, I'd rather write/publish stuff that doesn't embarrass me, given the choice.
Now if she led you there, then enough said.
Thank you. This is something we agree on. What I like most about David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars was his snow scene descriptions. The story was okay too, but I liked the book mostly because of its setting. In fact, any book with snow or winter in the title or with a cover depicting a winter scene will make me stop and take a look just because I like snow so much.

Hemingway also described the hell out of stuff.
I'm guessing, in the grand scheme of things, you and I agree more than we disagree, John.
You've never lived in Canada, have you ;)

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