Some time back, I heard a new author complain that her agent advised her to highlight all the setting descriptions and characterization in her book, then whack out as much of them as possible, essentially stripping the pages down to dialogue and sex. Now I understand how that might work for erotica, but this was an historical romance!I am apparently a visual writer. I want to “see” the wisteria hanging over my protagonist’s head as she rejects the hero. I need the picture of where the killer is standing in the room in relation to the victim—complete with placement of candlestick, lead pipe, and dagger. My mind demands an image of the house my heroine has to live in. And while the line “What a dump!” is dramatic, do I really want my quiet spinster stating that so succinctly as the earl invites her in?
Have novels really come down to screenplays and TV scripts? I realize many of the current “action” romances are high on dialogue and low on setting, and admittedly, there are historical romances with no history. But I’ve been thinking those just reflected individual styles. Instead, could talking heads be our future? To what purpose?
I understand that we don’t need as much description as readers did in pre-television days. After all, we know what a sailing ship and an English country estate looks like in full Technicolor. So how much grounding in the setting do we need?
As readers, do you skim over description? What about a character’s internal monologue? Do you need to see words inside quotes before you’ll read them? Or do you skim down to the sex scenes? I’m fascinated. Tell me!