How Much Description Is Necessary for Your Story?

cute, alluring, enticing, dazzling and other adjectives in green, orange, and red colors
Thank you, Narciso1 and Pixabay for allowing me to use this image.

“How Much Description Is Necessary for Your Story?” by Joan Y. Edwards

Descriptive words in stories help readers visualize and sense the setting for the characters and plot to emerge. Other times descriptive words determine how we visualize characters and their physical, mental, health, and disabilities…flaws and foibles…their actions and outer thoughts and their inner subtext. They help readers experience the tone, the myriad of emotions and moods of the story.

Here’s why the descriptions of setting in a story is important:

The when and where in the setting may explain the reasons why the conflicts arose between the characters at that very moment in time. Other parts of the setting are the social and/or political rules of the time, place, temperature,  precipitation, sunrise, sunset, stormy, sunny.

A good description of setting with environment, date, and place, gets and maintains an  emotional response in readers. It makes the story seem real. An effective story setting connects the characters to the plot, and ties together the story’s themes and events. Readers visualize your story as a movie in their minds. When readers are engaged in your story’s settings, they read and anticipate how your story will unfold.  They keep reading. They do not put the book down until it is finished.

As an author you may ask yourself, how much description of the characters and place should I give in my story?

Does your description go on and on and on so much that it tempts your readers to close your book and not care what happens to your main character? Ouch! That would hurt.

Good Story Company says: Don’t let the pace of your story suffer because you love all the many words you used to describe something.

What are guidelines for discovering if you have too much, too little or a Goldilocks – just right amount of description?

I hope the ideas below help you place a Goldilocks amount of description in your writing and prevent overload of descriptive words.

Of course, your descriptive words should answer one of these classic questions about the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of your story.

Question words in balls hanging from celing
Thank you Gert Altman and Pixabay for allowing me to use this image.

In your writing

  1. Is every detail of your description important to understand the plot, characters, or the tone of your novel?
  2. Does your description of characters, obstacles, and settings help the plot unfold and capture and maintain the interest of the reader? Do you need to add more description to keep your story flowing?
  3. Does your description reveal the cause and effect of characters and events in the plot of your story?
  4. Does your story engage readers by describing not only the where and when of the story but also the why?  Understanding the why of the story helps readers visualize and imagine not only the characters, actions, and place in each scene, but also gives the integral clues as to the emotions the characters are showing or the subtext of what they are not saying and are trying to hide from others. K. W. Weiland states that good story subtext allows readers to observe and learn without being taught.  For me, subtext is tricky. It’s hard to explain sometimes. I believe that subtext is what the character’s body language and actions show you that their words deny.
  5. Do you increase the severity of obstacles with difficult complications and offset with meaningful peaceful moments to build intensity? These life-changing events for the character demand description with a purpose to add to the suspense of the plot, characters, and tone of the story.
  6. Do you keep the interest of reader peaked with questions you put in their minds and delay giving them the answers until the perfect moment? Do you leave them with cliffhanging questions at the end of chapters?
  7. As recommended by, instead of hitting all the senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, feel, weather, do you choose two or three senses for your focus in each scene?
  8. Does your description enhance the character’s actions and reactions and add to its intensity rather than camouflage the situations? Does it bring your characters to life?
  9. Does each adjective have a good purpose for being there?
  10. Do you use adjectives wisely – not too many in one sentence.
  11. Do you have adequate description of place for your story?
  12. Is every word in your sentence essential to  understand your story’s plot, characters, or place? If your story doesn’t need a particular word, even if it sounds wonderful to your ears and is your favorite word of all time, don’t include it.
  13. Does your description raise the intensity your story?
  14. Does your description indicate the tone of your novel?
    To help you discover and pinpoint the tone of a particular scene in your story, envision it as a movie. What kind of music would be playing in the background. Something dark, funny, light, mysterious? The music used in movies helps viewers feel the emotions of the characters. Do the same with your descriptions. Tone explains the attitude which the author/narrator has about the character or event. It’s depicted by the  character’s words, body language, actions, facial expressions, hand gestures, and even the high or low pitch of a character’s voice. Here are a few tones:  Formal/informal, friendly/unfriendly, humorous/serious, optimistic/pessimistic, concerned/unconcerned, encouraging/discouraging, cooperative/uncooperative, fearless/fearful and many others.

Here are 7 excerpts from novels for you to edit: Did you find words that you believe should be left out? Did you find paragraphs that pulled you into the story?

Please share with me in the comment area, which of these seven authors listed below did the best job of pulling you into their story to understand the place, visualize the character, and move the plot along?

  1. Excerpt from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien,
  2. Excerpt from Diary of Anne Frank
  3. Excerpt from Fairy Tale by Steven King
  4. Excerpt from Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  5. Excerpt from Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  6. Excerpt from “Walden Pond” by Henry David Thoreau
  7. Excerpt from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

In the comments, please share a link to a passage from your personal favorite author and tell me why you like them.


  1. “5 Ways to Fix Excessive Descriptions:”
  2. Good Story “Writing Descriptions:”
  3. Harry Bingham. Jericho “How To Write Descriptions And Create A Sense Of Place:”
  4. Joan Y. Edwards. “For Reader Impact: Clarify meaning and Vary Use of Long and Short Sentences:”
  5. Joan Y. Edwards. “How Many Words Should Your Sentences Contain?”
  6. Joan Y. Edwards. “To Add Tension Use Short Sentences and Words:”
  7. Joslyn Chase. “Subtext Examples: 7 Simple Techniques to Supercharge Your Scenes:”
  8. “Literary Devices and Terms: Plot:”
  9. Meera Shah. “Tone In Writing; The How, Why, And When:” 
  10. Self “Setting of a Story: How to Create an Immersive Story Setting:” 
  11. Sophie Playle. “How Much Description Should My Novel Have:”\

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 Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards, Author
Copyright © 2009-2023 Joan Y. Edwards

 Flip Flap Floodle Firebird Book Award Winner Will this little duck’s song save him from Mr. Fox?
Joan’s Elder Care Guide Practical ways to help you and your elder survive.

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Step 2 Choose the publisher, editor, agent, or contest for this writing project.
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How to Be a Good Listener and Stay Healthy

Thank you to Trung-Thanh and Unsplash for allowing me to use this image.
Thank you to Trung-Thanh and Unsplash for allowing me to use this image.

“How to Be a Good Listener and Stay Healthy” by Joan Y. Edwards

You pride yourself in being a good listener. You care deeply about your friends and family who share with you their hopes and dreams, their ups and downs in life. Have you ever gotten down with sadness or become angry after listening to a friend or family member confide in you? Sometimes I get overwhelmed. It seems like that’s happened more since my husband, Carl died. But it seems heavier than that. I thought is it only me that’s experiencing this overload. Maybe not. Entering the scene before Carl died and after Carl died…COVID.

March 10, 2023 marked three years that Covid went around. You may be like the rest of the world and be on emotional overload. You may have retained and held onto an enormous bit of anxiety, and fear because you and many of your close friends and family as well as strangers in your community and strangers all over the world became sick and even some people you know may have died from COVID.

Perhaps you are carrying around all this extra sadness and sorrow. When you listen to the news or to a friend or spouse, be kind to yourself. Perhaps you need an alarm to go off when your body and mind is on overload. Or maybe you need a cushion or an extra layer of protection for your inner self:  Lean more on God than on your own resources. Ask him to make you stronger, more resilient, happier, looking at the bright side of possibilities. Yes, there are always two ways to look at something – a negative way and a positive way. Try to choose the positive way. Some days that is a real challenge in itself, but it can be done.

  1. To Be a Good Listener, take care of yourself.

Take care of yourself. It’s okay to be sad sometimes about another person’s difficulties. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, take a break. “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” It’s interesting that according to Jamie Elmer – happy moods, sad moods, and behaviors can be transferred from one person to another; even from listening to the news that focuses on the negative can alter the moods of those watching it. Be aware of too many negatives filling your spirit. Install an alarm to let you know when you’re holding too much in. When you have an overload…when you step on the scales – a sign jumps out and says “overload of sadness” “overload of fear” overload of anxiety.” Once you’ve named it, you can do something about it.

  • Protect yourself from listener overload.
    1. Get adequate rest. Take short walks and long walks. Eat protein snacks. Don’t eat too many high carb foods. High carb foods give you lots of energy right away and then Ka-plooey. Your energy level drops. Eating protein snacks will level out your energy and help your energy last longer.
    2. Do three(3) fun things to recharge yourself to lighten your load. Fun things are things that refill your spirit…make you smile…give you energy…fill you with positive vibes.  Fun gives your body and mind endorphins(good feelings) that remove the strain of too much sadness fear, anxiety or too much of any unwanted thing. Fun things don’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. Look for them. Embrace them.

Now that you’ve taken good care of yourself, you can be a good listener and stay healthy. Here are things to note before you listen:

    1. Don’t try to fix their problems. It’s not your job to solve problems for others. Realizing that helps to put you in a healthier way to listen. God and the person who shares a situation with you will be able to fix their problems. They need someone to listen to them. Many times, by telling about their situation with another person, troubled people figure out what they need to do or want to do without anyone saying anything. Listen and offer your support. You can say things like, “I’m here for you,” or “I can help you find resources if you need them.”
    2. Don’t Do Everything for them. Here is the tricky part. If they ask you to do something…make certain it is something they cannot do for themselves. Don’t agree to do the whole thing. Make sure they must do part of it themselves. Empower them. Encourage them to do what they can on their own. It will help them not to feel so helpless or powerless in the face of their difficulties. If they need the help of a professional, share resources you believe might help them.
    3. If someone asks you for suggestions, offer ideas for solutions – ideas that worked for you or someone you know. If they don’t use your idea, don’t take it personally. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good ideas or that they don’t like you. One idea leads people to think of more ideas. It links to different memories or ideas in their minds and leads them to possible solutions. There are no bad ideas in brainstorming sessions. All ideas lead to possible solutions. The solution a person chooses may work great for them and not for you. It is wise to remember that each person has a choice and to honor that…even if you do not agree with it.
    4. Create a safe space. Give the person in front of you or on the other end of the phone your undivided attention. If they are in panic or emergency mode, take the phone call now. If it’s an emergency, see if you need to call 911. If it’s not an emergency and it’s not a good time to talk, ask them if you could call them back in 10 minutes. Respect the speaker’s privacy. Don’t share what the speaker has told you with anyone else without their permission.
    5. Give speaker your undivided attention. If someone shares with you in person, turn off distracting TV, loud music, or cell phones. Look them in the eye. Get away from others who might overhear the conversation.
    6. You are not the judge. Do not Judge. Let the person know that they can talk to you without judgment. Avoid passing judgment on what they did or what others did. Remember God is the Judge and he is compassionate. This is not the time to say, “I told you so” or “You shouldn’t have done that.”
    7. Pay attention to the speaker’s body language. Non-verbal cues can tell you a lot about how someone is feeling. The way someone talks gives you clues as to their feelings and stress levels. The way they breathe and the words they choose and how they say them also give you ideas on how high their stress levels are.

Now that you know what is expected of you, Choose the appropriate mode for this situation for someone to share their difficulties and emotions with you:

Listening Mode means you are listening and let the other person say whatever it is they need to say without interrupting. In Listening Mode you listen to them tell all the details. Be patient. There may be pauses. It may take time for the speaker to find the words to express what happened or what they are feeling. When they are finished talking, that’s when they want a response from you. This is when you can summarize what they said and ask questions. This helps to ensure that you’re on the same page as the speaker and that you’ve understood them correctly.

Conversation Mode means they will say something and then you can say something. In conversation mode, the words flow back and forth between two people. After someone tells you something, ask questions and give them time to respond. After they finish sharing, you can summarize by giving “I heard you say” or “I understand that you are angry,” “That is so sad,” or “I know that must have frightened you” statements.

When you listen attentively and give moral support (emotional supoort) to others by encouraging them, it gives them a feeling of being loved and cared for and that they matter and are important.  Remember to ask God to lead you to say the right things to encourage someone in distress. He will help both of you!

Good luck with your listening. I hope my ideas help spark something to help you think of a way that really works for you. Please share with me the things you do to help you be a good listener and stay healthy. Here are resources that might help you.


  1. Call Centra “Does Body Language Really Matter When Talking on the Phone?”
  2. Communication Coach. YouTube. “5 Tips to be a Great Conversationalist:”
  3. Bryan Robinson. Forbes. “The 3 to1 Positivity Ratio and 10 Ways It Advances Your Career.”
  4. Declutter the Mind. “21 Ways to Show Moral Support to People in Need:”
  5. Jamie Elmer. “Is Depression Contagious:”
  6. Modern Minds. “You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup:”
  7. Nulacha Sutthinonthagul. Elite Plus Magazine. “10 Rules of a Great Conversationalist:”
  8. Jack Zenger. “What Great Listeners Actually Do:”

Thank you for honoring me by being one of the 1,923,725 visitors to my blog. Please subscribe to receive an email when I post a new article to inspire, encourage, inform, and add humor to your day.


 Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards, Author
Copyright © 2009-2023 Joan Y. Edwards

 Flip Flap Floodle Firebird Book Award Winner Will this little duck’s song save him from Mr. Fox?

Joan’s Elder Care Guide Practical ways to help you and your elder survive.






Writing, Inspiration