If you're a witness talking to the police, then it's great for you to offer facts on everything that you remember.

If you're telling a story, not so much. Adding too many details and descriptions is a surefire way to bore your audience.

However, you still need to add some details (without details Hamlet ends up like this) So how do you add enough details to keep the story interesting, without overloading your audience? The answer is to use vivid details. Vivid details stand out in your listeners' minds, and really help your audience imagine the scene.

What makes a detail vivid? A few things:

  • Vivid details are surprising.

If I tell you that a lawyer in court is wearing a suit, that's not surprising – since most people in court wear suits. However, if someone shows to the beach wearing a suit, now that detail becomes vivid and interesting.

  • Vivid details relate to the story.

If I'm telling you a story about spilling a soda on my date in the movie theater, I don't really need to give details about the movie itself – since the story is about my embarrassing spill, not the movie.

  • Vivid details help the reader imagine the scene.

If you tell me the train was “very fast” I can't really imagine that. If you tell me “The train was going so fast everything outside was a blur”, now you've given me something to imagine.

  • Vivid details are important.

If I'm telling a story about meeting the president, it doesn't really matter what color tie the president was wearing – since the important thing is the meeting, not the shirt! However, if you met the president and you happened to be wearing the exact same tie as him, that would perhaps be an important detail.

Also, remember the earlier rule: make sure everything supports the “point” of the story. If your detail doesn't support the point of the story, it probably doesn't need to be included.

Next: Practice Related Skills