Descriptions: Sometimes Less is More


I know my story. I really do.  The book is plotted and I know what is going to happen when and to whom. So why, after every conference or workshop, do I want to throw everything away and start over?
In the past few weeks I have attended a workshop, a conference, and a writing retreat. According to those presenters' theories, it seems that I do not write enough.  I need more detail--details about setting, characters appearance, and internal dialog.

Some of this I understand.  I understand that I need to show the reader why my characters behave as they do.  Other parts, I don't. For example, what constitutes enough description?
As a reader, I am one of those people who flips pages when something goes on too long.  I am impatient when things are repeated over and over, or I am  given endless information that never seems to be needed. Of course, there is a downside to flipping pages. 

Recently, as I was rereading an old favorite, the phrase "ebony skin" leapt out at me.  Well damn.  All these years this character had been "cafe  au lait" to me. Suddenly he was a stranger.  I certainly can't blame the author, she tried to tell me.  But her idea of a handsome man isn't the same as mine. I wish she had let me decide what he looked like.  Maybe give me the basics--short or tall, stout or lean. But I prefer to fill in the details on my own, especially with characteristics that people love or hate, such as dimples or cleft chins.

Which brings me back to my original thought.  I know my story. And I do understand that I need to add more description. so that my readers know it, too.  But I suspect I will never be that writer who takes twenty pages to describe a single scene.  Sometimes less really is more.