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Significant Details

I started a book once. I’m sure it was a great book. The problem was I couldn’t get past the first few pages. It was the age-old problem. There was too much information. My interest waned as the author described each person, place, and object in minute detail. Maybe it was impatience on my part, but I wanted to get to the meat of the story.

Details are vital to any story. I won’t deny that. What we must do, is learn to discern between significant and insignificant details.

Significant details make a story come to life. … Insignificant details? They bore the reader.

Imagine this scene: A man, gun in hand, is chasing a woman through a garden. Do we really need a description of each tree, flower, and weed in the garden? Do we need a detailed description from head to toe of the woman as she runs? Of the man as he chases her? I think not. They’re not necessarily significant.

Some details are fluff. Some are absolutely necessary. The setting, now that can be vital. Is this scenario unfolding at midnight in an abandoned garden miles from the nearest town? Or is it in the garden of a posh estate where guests are scattering left and right to clear a path for her as she runs from her pursuer? Such details are significant. 

More importantly, we want to know why she’s running. We want to know what she is feeling. We want to know why the man with the gun is chasing her. We want to feel emotionally connected to the characters. We want the plot. These details are significant.

Of course, a different story line introduces a different set of significant details. A young woman meandering through a garden, reminiscing of moments spent there with her beloved fiancé who has gone off to war—now I could see her stopping to admire the flowers. She might nostalgically pick a rose, one like her fiancé had given her in the past. As she brushes it close to her face, its fragrance brings back sweet memories. In this scenario the flowers are significant.

Significant or insignificant? What type of details are we writing into our letters, articles, or novels? Are we taking the time to go back and delete the insignificant? Any thoughts to share? Please feel free to write in the comment box.


I am a pastor’s wife, former missionary, mother of four great sons, and author of three Christian suspense novels: Betrayed, Identity Revealed, and A Murder Unseen. (Available at: Amazon.com.) I have a passion for God, my family, and writing! If you want to connect with me, join me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.  Interested in updates by email? CLICK HERE!

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  1. September 15, 2012 at 7:51 am

    What a good blog, Rosie. Yes, I agree. So often I read books that define minute details of what a character is wearing in a scene that has nothing to do with clothing. Or scenes that are too specific in surroundings. Too much detail takes away from the feeling. Even in the slow, thoughtful scenes, just a few significant details are enough.

    • September 15, 2012 at 8:41 am

      So often, less is better. And yes, even in slow scenes, you want to stick with the significant and not bog the reader down. We’ve got to give readers the credit for taking the significant and filling in the blanks! 🙂

  1. September 17, 2012 at 10:58 pm

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