Setting the scene is an important part of the story. Each new place where action happens should be described to the reader. But not so much that we lull the reader to sleep with our beautiful description.
I also believe that different genres require different extents of detail. Fantasy and Sci Fi usually need more for world building, special items mere humans are unfamiliar with, new technology we can only dream of. But for romance, the scenes are secondary to the emotion and character interaction - who cares where they are? And for thrillers, even less. Action is the focus.
Right now I am reading two books, well three. But I am going to give you scenes from two. See if you can tell the genre by the descriptions.
...as I moved down the narrow gangway, past the two rear boilers that powered the steering engines. The low thrum of the engines as they turned the propellers sounded in time to the throb of movement felt in the metal framework structure that ran the length, breadth, and height of the ship. It was a familiar sensation, one I didn't even think of now, and certainly not one I noticed until I was on land, and it was missing.
It was a dark, primal place, three acres of old forest untouched for ten thousand years as the gloomy castle rose around it. It smelled of moist earth and decay. No redwoods grew here. This was a wood of stubborn sentinel trees armoured in grey-green needles, of mighty oaks, of ironwoods as old as the realm itself. Here thick black trunks crowded close together while twisted branches wove a dense canopy overhead and misshapen roots wrestled beneath the soil.
Can you tell the difference?
Hints for the first are some of the words: thrum, throb, sensation. Most of the description is only in the beginning. This was one of the few sections without dialog. It is an excerpt from STEAMED by Katie MacAlister - a steampunk romance.
For the second, long winded descriptions like this have taken up the first 40 pages or so. Each chapter elegantly introduces a new character and back story. This is only part of a paragraph from A GAME OF THRONES by George R. R. Martin - epic fantasy. Yes, awesome series, awesome author and I'm sure there is an awesome story, if I can wade through the details to find it! I love fantasy, and I loved the WHEEL OF TIME series by Robert Jordan (bless his soul). I'm just having a hard time getting into this, but I haven't given up yet.
Reading beautifully described scenes like these makes me wonder - am I giving enough setting details? Does the reader feel like they are there? But mine is a thriller and my critters keep telling me my descriptions are slowing down the action. So I believe our genre sets the limits to our scene setting.
What do you think? Do you have a scene description to submit? Please share it! I'll be here all week =)