Incorporating Detail: When are they important and when to mention them

Not every detail in your story is important and a lot of it can be lift out. There are a few exceptions, however, and that is when those details help move the story forward and makes it more enjoyable for the reader.

I like to think of details in the bare necessity criteria in a way. If the detail doesn’t add information about the character’s personality, move the story ahead, or give your reader a better sense of what’s going on then you probably can chop it out of the story without your readers feeling like they’re missing anything.

Here’s my list  of what details are most likely to fall in the not needed category and when it’s appreciate to mention it.

The year-

Some stories are fine without mentioning the year. This is mostly for children, teen, and some romance novels. In other genres, such as horror, the year can be implied by the scenery details. For example, if none of the characters own a cell phone you can assume it was before the nineties. Also, by the clothes they wear and the fashion they represent you can predict the time in history the story happened.

Showing the year with technology, clothes, personalities, and voice is a good way of showing and not telling. It intrigues your readers to really think about the time in history. More likely you don’t really need a specific year but a general area of years like the 70’s, 80’s, 40’s, etc.


Yes, some neighbors are important to the story like anybody talking about a girl next door but most neighbors don’t really say much or have a big impact in the story.

If your neighbors really help your main characters either with advice, psychical help or emotional comfort than I suggest treating that neighbor as a sideline character but only if your protagonist continues to talk to that neighbor. If it’s only a one time interaction then a tremendous amount of detail isn’t needed for that neighbor.

The more important the neighbor is to the protagonist then the more details about the neighbor should be given to the readers.


I do believe that saying what your characters are wearing is important if it is important or interesting to your protagonist. For example, if your protagonist has a crush on a girl they are more likely to notice their nice outfit because it gives them that warm bubbly feeling.

So if clothes bring out an emotion or a reaction from your protagonist then it’s worth mentioning. But keep in mind that characters, like people, change their clothes every day and you do not want to keep sounding repetitive when saying “oh, look how beautiful she is today with  her silk blue blouse and sun yellow hot pants.”

Keep in mind that there are other things about your characters that can and should bring out emotions from your protagonist.

5 sensory details

The five sensory details of sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch should be used as often as possible. Readers need more than sight and sound to really feel that they’re in the scene with your characters.

Sensory details are one aspect I struggle with as a writer. I’m pretty direct with my writing style but I know I need to slow down and point out the little things that bring out what the character is really experiencing with taste, touch, and smell as well as sight and sound.

Keep writing and really look at what important in your story to drop unneeded words and boring your readers.

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About the Author

Shaquanda Dalton

Hello, my name is Shaquanda Dalton and welcome to! I'm from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and graudated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a degree in Creative Writing. I fell in love with writing at the age nine and love it till this day. :)


  1. Congratulations! Mine short story collection is going well; finally in the editing phase.

    • Shaquanda Dalton

      cool. And if you want a new eye to look at them i’d be happy to read them over to help you revise more. Just shoot me an email at 🙂

      • I think I’ll take you up on that. Feel free to ask the same of me.

  2. Shaquanda Dalton

    Thanks Yoneco . I just wrote three more chapters to it and I am to be finished the writing part by the end of the month. We’ll see. 🙂

    How’s yours coming along?

  3. I love character details, mostly because I’m more drawn by characters themselves than plot. I love knowing how a character dresses, looks, etc.

    Nice post. How goes your book?