Writing Descriptions: It's Okay to Repeat Yourself

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Writing descriptions in your story is obviously really important. As the author, you need to let the readers know what your characters look like, what they're wearing, where they are located, etc. A vivid picture of your characters and the setting will help your readers situate themselves nicely in your story.

One thing I've noticed with my own writing is that I tend to write less rather than more, because I'm always afraid that the exposition will be too much and slow down the pace of the story, or that it will become boring for the reader.

But as my beta readers for my novel have told me, less is not in fact more.

When I started thinking about this, I started noticed it more in other novels as well. Right now I'm reading Words of Radiance, the second novel in Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive. I'm absolutely in love with this series. Sanderson is truly a master of storytelling and worldbuilding. What I've noticed in this series is that Sanderson spends a lot of time reminding the reader what his characters look like, what they are wearing, where they are, and how this is all related to their culture and world. You'd think that so much repetition would be overkill, but Sanderson reminds us of these things at just the right moment. And each time he does so, I feel more connected to the world.

There is a fine balance between overexposition and gently guiding your readers through your storyworld, and Sanderson achieves it perfectly (IMHO). It's a valuable lesson for me, as well as for other beginner storytellers:

You're allowed to repeat yourself as long as it's in service of the story and the reader.

In the next draft of my novel, I'm going to pay attention and do the same thing, because I know I haven't given enough explanation and description.

This is also a lesson, oft repeated by Stephen King, for writers, that writers must read! It's imperative to improving your own craft.

Thank you Brandon Sanderson and Stephen King!

-Andrea :)