December 13, 2014

The Simplicity of the Christmas Story By T. L Wiens

I love the Christmas account in the Bible. It’s simple and yet so filled with details—important details. But there are many details that a modern writer would be demanded to include— like detailed descriptions of characters and setting.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t like books with too much description. Recently, I was reading a story and enjoyed it until the author included a very detailed description of a character. It ruined the story for me; destroyed the image I’d built in my mind.

That makes me question how to straddle that line of adding details to a story without fracturing the imagination of the reader? I don’t have the answer but I do know when I’ve worked with publishers, it’s been something that I’ve found intrudes on my reading pleasure and writing voice.

How do we as writers bring the detail equation into a nice balance?


  1. I am so with you on that. I lose the story when it switches to scenery but that's where I'm weak in creative writing. Bible stories have the perfect balance, but then I already have the scene imprinted on my mind.

  2. Good question, Tammy. I appreciate your observation that scripture tends to be minimalistic when it comes to description. There are some stories that are much more involved, though. Joseph's comes to mind. Maybe part of the balancing equation would be to determine how important that character and setting are, and what does the description add to the story? If information is relevant, then it stays.

    At the same time, there are some who love to read description and detail, who revel in being drawn into a setting. For those readers, such attention to description would have to be consistent throughout the story, wouldn't it? It couldn't be a sudden injection, and then back to normal.

    Good things to think about!

  3. It is definitely a balancing act

  4. Now that you (Tammy) and Bobbi mention it, the Christmas story in Luke 2 is really minimalist. With the aid of online Scripture (NIV) and the "Word" word processing program, I discovered that this passage from verse 1 -21 contains 414 words or 2172 characters with spaces. But what a story it tells.

    Although this is tight writing, Carol points out that we have the setting and descriptions imprinted on our minds. We've heard multi sermons on this story. We've read picture books with images we remember, and we've read the words and reviewed the pictures on our mental screens. Perhaps this is journalistic writing at its best, but it is also exquisite prose.

    But what about the people who haven't heard the story before? God's word has the power to convict and draw people into the story's grace, love, beauty, dynamics.

    I think I got carried away here, Tammy, but you really got me (us?) thinking about the writing of the Bible stories. Thanks.

  5. I've been blessed to have a son in-law who was not raised in the church and doesn't have the baggage of the stories which have added and subtracted from the original. When he first became a follower of Christ, I got to enjoy the wonder of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on such a basic level.
    I understand the Bible is a very unique book and that it's not really something you can compare to any old book. Having said that, I find too many books have the problem of too much detail. I'm a reader too. Why is it there is such a lack of balance within the industry? I can find secular books I enjoy but find it very hard to find a Christian book that I want to read.


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