Have you ever read a book where you feel like you are bogged down in a swamp? The author wants to tell you every little detail of his or her world. The color of every last button, the exact feel of every object, every inch of every person in vivid color. It’s as if they are afraid the reader will perceive something, anything, different from what was imagined in the author’s mind.
It’s true that too little detail is boring. Just as certain is that not allowing a story to breathe, to capture the reader and bring them in, is just as boring. It doesn’t take a lot of detail to paint a picture in the mind. A perception. A feeling. An immersive book doesn’t have to be 200,000 words long. Fewer and purposefully chosen words can ignite the reader’s imagination, draw them inside and propel them forward.
One of my favorite books is Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles. Relatively short, it’s a collection of short stories, mostly connected only by the Martian setting. But Bradbury’s descriptions of the ancient, dead (or dying) Martian world leave an impression in one’s mind, one that stays with you long after. Maybe each reader’s image in their mind’s eye of the red planet is a little different in reading these stories. Yet long after they forget every exact word, character and event, the mere mention of the book brings up imagery and feeling like a memory of place actually walked.
And that is one of the traits that distinguishes remembered books from those forgotten.