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Hi Jamie. I have been writing at a non-stop pace, and last night ....started over AGAIN!!  I decided that I am going to need to study a few more facts before I can continue. There are a few things that, no matter how much I attempt them, I still have issues with. Like detail. I have been detailing my whole life, and I find I still do it in my writing. Its like I have some need to explain exactly what the character sees, feels, ext. ( I do this when I speak, and friends and family are forced to rush me along!) My question, if I'm not an annoyance already ;) is do you have any advice for me or one of your amazing examples? I just know if I fix this problem, nothing will stop me! Thank-you so much, for all your help!!!   Tara

Hello, Tara!

Detail is a writer's best friend. It is the key to showing (rather than telling), which seems to be the aspect of writing to which all of your problems narrow down. Detail allows us to portray the things we wish to portray, in the manner we wish to portray them.

However, detail can also double as a writer's worst enemy. You have to distinguish between detail that works (enhances the story) and that which doesn't work (distracts readers from the story). They most effective way to incorporate detail is to slip it into the narrative, rather than going out of your way to describe something. You don't want your descriptions to sound forced. This makes it seem as if you are being too wordy, when really, you're simply trying to show.

I have mentioned before ways to show through narrative, rather than telling. It's really how you do this that will make a world of difference.

Let's use some examples:

Juanita had so many things to do, she just couldn't keep up.

Pick up the children from school, drop off the baked-goods for the promotional sale, reach the post office by 4:00, wash the laundry, and prepare the evening meal; with everything on her list, Juanita felt she was the busiest woman on Earth.

Showing effectively:
Juanita packed the pink boxes of cookies into the back of her van before rushing to Trowbridge Elementary to pick up the kids from school.
"Hurry, hurry!" she called as Jacob and Trish climbed into the back seat. "We have ten minutes to get to the post office!"
"Mom," Trish said, "what about the cookies? Mrs. Morgan is waiting for them."
"Oh, no!" Juanita replied, running her fingers through her hair. On days like these, she felt like pulling her hair clean out. "I don't have time for this. Okay, come on. Everyone carries two boxes."
She handed the kids the boxes before taking some of them up in her own arms and filing Jacob and Trish to the cafeteria where Mrs. Morgan had been waiting.
Juanita didn't stick around to listen to Mrs. Morgan ramble on about the promotional sale. She didn't have the time or desire to hear about it. After all, it was the same thing every year - and she always got stuck baking the cookies.

She heaved a sigh of relief when she stopped in front of the post office five minutes before closing.
"Here," Juanita said, twisting around to hand Trish the mobile phone. "We'll have pizza for dinner. You guys order while I drop of these letters."
At this point, she didn't care what was for dinner. Take-out would get one more thing out of her way. She couldn't bear to think about the pile of laundry waiting for her when she finally got home.  

In the last example, notice how it never really says the Juanita is busy; it shows it through narrative. We can feel her stress without ever directly saying that she is stressed. This is how to get around saying everything that your characters are thinking and feeling.

I found this short article with more examples that I believe may be useful to you:

I hope what I'm saying is making sense to you. So far, all of your problems seem to be directly linked to the issue with showing/telling. Just remember that readers want to see what is happening, not be told. And you can very well use your love for detail to do this. Just make sure you use the correct detail. In the article, there is some discussion about how to determine what is correct and incorrect showing. It is basically what I am telling you now, but I really think examples in the link will be useful to you. I do hope you check it out. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask here, or if you want to have a more in-depth discussion about your writing, you may contact me by email at:

I wish you all the best with your writing, and I sincerely hope that what I say makes sense and is able to assist you.


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Jamie Darrach


I can answer just about any question regarding the composition, editing, and publishing procedures for all forms of literature. I will give aspiring authors ample tips on how to strengthen plot, how make story-lines and characters credible, how to improve visual description and dialogue, and how to make works flow easily and naturally. In addition, I can give writers advice on how to adequately edit and revise their works. I have knowledge of the literary market, and can advise writers in which route would be best for their piece, including offer examples of presses and agents who work with manuscripts in the author's category.


I have been writing for eleven years, having completed fourteen novels, several short stories, and countless pieces of poetry. I am experienced in multiple genres. I have worked as a copy-editor and critic for aspiring authors. I have researched the literary market from inside-out, and can provide much information to writers who are seeking advice.

College for BA in English

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