Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is Description Genre Specific?

I've had the privilege recently to plow through a good portion of my TBR pile. It included fantasy, dystopian, sci-fi, and historical. Then tonight I gave a critique of a writing assignment for one of my friends across the country. It was supposed to be written from the point of view of a child, and as such had a very stream of consciousness flow.

So, I pose this question to you, readers. Does the amount of description, whether it be clarification for action or landscape, need to be dependent on the genre? For instance, I noticed that description often has a greater presence in fantasy and sci-fi than in dystopian or teen lit. Can description make the genre?

I tried to put in moderate amount of description in Griffin's Song and Wind Chaser, because I expect the reader would eventually get tired of hearing about the beauty of the sea. But for the adventure genre the terrain is always changing. Example: I have a scene involving a tropical island beach complete with coconuts, as well as a rain and smoke covered village subjected to a pirate raid.

Consider the picture below: would your description of it change based on what genre you wrote?


  1. I think amount of description might be genre-specific, if only because in SF/F there's a lot of world-building to do. Anything in a contemporary setting, though, we have a reference base to draw from so descriptions don't need to be as long.

    But for type of description, I think it's probably more to do with the feel of the book. Both the pacing and the mood. The pacing will dictate the amount of description, and the mood will dictate what is said and how.

    I don't know that my description of that photo would necessarily change if I were writing contemporary or sci-fi, but it would definitely be different if the MC were about to embark on a difficult quest to revenge the death of her parents than if the MC were on horseback heading out to move cattle, or even if the MC and her love interest were on a day-trip from the city and were pausing at a lookout to admire the view.

    Dystopians tend, by nature, to be written from a rather dark perspective compared to other genres because of where the MC is emotionally from what they have to face. Historicals are rarely quite that dark, even if the MC is having a tough time.

  2. Though description might be influenced by genre, I think it's based more on each writer's individual VOICE.