How would someone describe you?

My office is in the back corner of a building at work. There are times when someone in the field will need to come see me. Typically, they may know my name, but they don’t associate that name with what I look like since they may only see me if I am out in the yard when they drive in or passing me in the hall. They will go to the dispatch office and say they need to talk to me, and dispatch will direct them on which halls to take, where to turn, where I sit, and what I look like.

Driver: “I need to go see Claire Collins to fill out a form. Where is she?”

Dispatch: “Follow the halls to the left. She’s at the end.”

The driver would stand there, not knowing any more information that he had when he started. He knows he may wander around the building for awhile and stumble across me. Or, he may ask someone else.

Driver: “I need to go see Claire Collins.”

Dispatch: “Go through this door into the main building and follow the hallway to the left. When you come to the main receptionist desk, take a right. You’ll come to a big room with two girls at desks at opposite corners. Walk through that room to the door at the far end. Claire sits at the desk right through that door.”

 

Now our driver can find me. He doesn’t know what I look like, and he may pass me in the hall, but at least he knows where to find me. What if the conversation went like this?

Driver: “I need to go see Claire Collins.”

Dispatch: “Open the door to the right of you by turning the handle to the right. You will step into a hallway that has an office to the right, an office straight ahead, and a hallway to the left. Take the hallway. At the end of the hallway is an office straight ahead and another hallway that goes off to the right. Follow the hallway. There are pictures on the walls and brown carpet on the floor. You will walk by the Human Resources office, the conference room, the bathrooms, the kitchen, the President’s office, and the CFO’s office. This hallway ends at the front door. If you’ve reached that, the receptionist will be sitting to your right. She has short salt and pepper hair and she will probably be on the phone so don’t stand there and disturb her. Walk back to the other side of her desk, and there’s a doorway. Walk through that door into the accounting area where accounts payable and accounts receivable are. Carrie sits to your left at the cherry desk with the pictures on the right corner, flowers in a vase on the left corner, and a row of filing cabinets behind her. She has long brown hair, blue eyes, and she is wearing a very nice black pantsuit today with a cream colored shirt. To the left sits Francine. Her desk is a light oak color and there’s never anything on it except her computer. She is wearing a really short skirt and spiked heels and her hair is about shoulder length and dyed this really tacky platinum color that clashes with her black eyebrows.  Along the far wall is the fax machine, the copier, the folding machine, and bulletin boards loaded with all of the legal documents that have to be posted in a conspicuous place. Follow that wall to another doorway. This doorway is really wide. Through it, there’s an office to your right, and a row of desks to the left. Filing cabinets line the wall next to the door. The guy in the office is in a bad mood today so stay away from him. Through the doorway is a desk in front of the large window. Claire sits there but she might not be there because she’s always running all over the place at everyone’s beck and call. Anyway, she’s tall with long, reddish-brown, wavy hair and green eyes. She’s wearing jeans and a company shirt and tennis shoes. You can’t miss her.”

 

At this point, if our driver is still standing there, he’s been overwhelmed with useless information. It may all be true, but did he really need to know all of that to find me? Probably not. Do your readers need to know every single detail of events and descriptions to read the book? Probably not. The following is probably the best exchange of all.

Driver: “I need to go see Claire Collins.”

Dispatch: “Follow me, I’ll show you where to find her.”

 

Claire Collins, author of Fate and Destiny and Images of Betrayal, will be in the Greensboro, North Carolina area over Valentine’s Day for Second Wind Publishing’s Author Event.

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