The Journal, Friday, November 17

Hey Folks,

Topic: On Describing Setting

How much description in setting is “too much”?

Here’s a rule of thumb: If the description is something you, the author, are adding, it’s too much; you’ll bore the reader to death. If it’s the POV character’s opinion of the setting that he absorbed through his own physical senses, it will be just right and the reader will be hooked.

Every character (like every human) has a unique POV that is determined by his or her physical senses (including any limitations or enhancements of those senses) and filtered through his or her past experiences.

The physical senses provide the setting; the past experiences provide the opinion of the setting. Both are necessary.

Description of a setting is not offered as a laundry list of bland facts bereft of opinion. We don’t write, “The room was paneled in walnut. The floor was covered with a thick red carpet. The whole place smmelled of cherry pipe smoke.” (An author might bring that into a story.)

But if we give it to the POV character, he will give us his opinion of it. That’s what makes it interesting to the reader.

According to one POV character, the walls are panelled in a warm brown, welcoming wood. Unfortunately, the floor is covered in a god-awful bordello carpet and the place reeks with the filthy stench of smoke.

According to another, the heavy wooden walls make the room feel closed in, and the carpet looks like hungry flames licking up out of the floor. The only saving grace is the sweet scent of cherry pipe smoke wafting through the room.

And another would see (hear, smell) it entirely differently.

Can you have more than one POV character describe a single room? Of course. Everything depends on your story.

Just remember that any description of setting that is filtered through the POV character’s physical senses and delivered with his or her opinions is never too much.

And anything that you, the author, feel like you “should” add will probably be too much.

(If you cycle back through and the character notices something he/she didn’t notice before, feel free.)

Well, a couple of things….

1. I’m off the challenge. I just wasn’t feeling it. Really, I wasn’t feeling it from the beginning.

I probably won’t even publish the story I wrote yesterday. It wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t anything good. It was the result of a guy trying to force something, and that never turns out well.

Writing was fun for me right up until I stopped writing in the middle of a story back in July.

After that I wrote and published two more novels (The Implications in August and Loose Ends in September), but when I started the novel for October, I stopped writing it too.

I think maybe I need to go back to the one in July and either follow Heinlein’s Second Rule (Finish what you write) or throw it out completely, then move forward again from there.

I’ll at least go back and look at it with that in mind. Then as I move forward, I’ll look at some others I started and didn’t finish until I get back to the present. Same thing, either finish them or throw them out.

But I’m not going to do it under additional meaningless pressure. I’m doing a lot of other non-writing things just now as well, including a couple of copyedits, some family things, and so on.

So I’ll take care of those writing things as I’m moving through the other things.

2. In the meantime, it seems silly to keep publishing the Journal every day even when I’m not writing. So as of today, I’m letting it go for awhile. I hasten to add that I expect to be back.

When I come out of this on the other side, I’ll pick up publishing the Journal again, probably. But for now, as I said, it just seems silly.

After today, if I have something to convey that I believe you will find useful, you’ll get a copy of the Journal in your email.

But if you don’t, just know I’m fine. I’m just doing what I gotta do.

When I come back, I’ll be immersed in fiction writing again. Until then, thanks for hanging in there.

Of Interest

I suggest you check Dean’s place at each morning. It doesn’t really take more than a minute or two to determine whether the day’s entry is worthwhile.

I also recommend subscribing to Linda Maye Adams’ blog at

Finally, I recommend you check the Writers’ Resources page on my website from time to time. I add links to it often. See

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 780 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 780

Writing of “”

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXX (done)

Total fiction words for the month……… 4320
Total fiction words for the year………… 453762
Total nonfiction words for the month… 7490
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 175553
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 629315

The Daily Journal blog streak……………………………………… 719 days
Calendar Year 2017 Novels to Date………………………… 9
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 27
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 4
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………………… 182

‘Til we meet again. Adiós.

1 thought on “The Journal, Friday, November 17”

  1. Until you come back to the journal, thanks, Harvey! I never felt that I told you enough how much I appreciate your guidance, your expertise, and your friendship.
    Hoping that all is well with you and your family and hope to see you around and about somehow or other.
    Again, THANK YOU!

Comments are closed.