Whether your book takes place in today’s world, the future, or some entirely unique realm, it’s imperative that your reader get a sense of location and the expectations for that ‘world’ ASAP.
If you write literary fiction, a block of detail focusing on setting isn’t abnormal by any means, as long as it does more than one thing. It can show the reader where they are, but it should also: provide atmosphere/mood, reflect a character’s state of mind, hint at backstory, etc.
If you write genre fiction, your details describing where you are and what things/people/aliens look like need to happen gradually and in much smaller chunks. Often it is hidden in amongst action sequences or dialogue. Occasionally, we learn just as much about a character or situation as we do about location when that place is observed from his/her perspective.
What you need to remember is that in a first draft we info dump to get things out of our head, and to work things out on the page. In consecutive drafting we need to go back in and strategically infuse moments with guided details. Don’t just list off what a character or place looks like, integrate it into the vital workings of the story.
She was tall, blonde, and leggy wearing a leather jacket and packing an AK47.
Vivian’s blonde hair whipped her face as the AK47 rested against boots as long as her legs, with a set of leathers worn slightly at the hip and forearms – her uniform of choice.
Whipping blonde hair – tells us length, gives us attitude
AK47 resting – tells us she’s bad-ass, not currently ‘working’ but ready
Boots – emphasize length of legs, adds sex appeal to bad-ass-ness
Worn leathers – she’s not new to this line of work, she’s comfortable in her role
The dense trees blocked out most of the hazy moonlight as yet another condor glided in the heavens above while crickets and frogs sang.
Dense foliage restricted our ability to walk as the canopy above blocked out the hazy moonlight. Another condor stalked our patrol, hiding its true intentions slicing the wind with its wings while crickets fought ancient bullfrogs for control of the night.
Foliage vs. Trees – lots of leafy crap in the way
Canopy – sense of height
Stalked vs. Glided – gives perception of hunting or being hunted
Hiding intentions – implies secrecy and a furtive tension
Slicing wings & fighting night noises – aggression, war, battle
Now you give it a try 🙂