Now, how many of you want an actual description of this place? Do you want to know that the restaurant in my head has huge snowflake light fixtures, black leather banquettes, an uplit bar and halftone blowups on the walls?
Or would you prefer to create your own idea of "chic" - maybe artworks by a local illustrator, brass, polished wood and servers wearing bow ties? Or something else.
This is the dilemma of the fiction writer. How much description is enough, and when should we allow readers to use their own imaginations to paint the picture?
One of the comments I get about my writing, mostly from other writers, is that I don't provide enough description. And it's true that I tend to be a minimalist. Heck, Fish-Eye Lens has almost no description. The novel is primarily dialogue, so everything the reader learns about how people and things look has to come from what the characters say, not anything that I as the writer provide. My other work has more descriptions, but I'm selective about my details. One woman merely has a "blocky" figure under her faded floral dress. Or a man on the beach has a cellphone clipped to his Speedos. I try to nudge the reader into a picture that he or she helps create.
I never analyzed my approach, but I realize now that this idea of collaboration is how I prefer to read. I want writers to give me just a couple of adjectives; I'll fill in the rest. And if the writer gives me more than I want, I just don't pay attention to it. John Grisham tells me the ancient Mazda hatchback has only three hubcaps, a badly cracked windshield and a whiny, unmuffled rotary engine. Sorry, John, but I got the idea after the first three words; didn't need the others.
So I suppose what I'm doing is writing for readers like myself. Those who need minute descriptions - actual dimensions instead of "gnomelike" or "palatial," or all the furnishings in my chic restaurant - won't be satisfied. I hope they find the writer who leads them by the hand.
And I hope I'll find the readers who are happy to let their imaginations loose and create pictures along with me.