What's a good balance between dialogue and description in novels? (Note: Description here refers to all non-dialogue.) One of my insecurities as a writer is that I write too much dialogue and am light on description. I have a cut-to-the-chase style of writing. I picked it up from writing screenplays before transitioning to books. In scripts, it's suggested that you never have more than 3 lines of description at a time. It's a well-known fact that people in Hollywood don't like to read. Blocks of description turns them off. Also, scripts are used more as a blueprint for the director and actor. Description tells them what's happening, but they will use their own interpretation to create the tone and feel.
I am incapable of writing long passages of description. That's why I like YA. Kids like having a good mix of white space on the page. They feel they aren't reading a textbook that way. Do you ever cringe when you turn a page and it's a block of description? I sometimes do. When I read, I want description that's long enough to just give me a sense of what's going on. I don't need painstaking detail about physical description, a play-by-play of the characters' thoughts, or a journalistic recounting of backstory. Make it succinct; my mind will fill in the rest. I always think to that scene in Pleasantville when the kids discover blank books. Reese Witherspoon vaguely describes what a book is about, and the pages fill in with text. I would rather reveal information via dialogue.
On the same token, I don't like dialogue that goes on and on. Writing dialogue is fun, but it also needs to have a point. It must move the story along. I tire of scenes with dialogue that goes nowhere. Pulp Fiction is a famously talky script, but it's all leading somewhere. Characters don't talk just for the sake of talking. Long stretches of dialogue reveal character and explore the movie's theme: what does it take to be a righteous man?
Recently, I read The Giver by Lois Lowry and loved it. I devoured it in two days. It's an award-winning book, and I was surprised at how dialogue-driven it was. Most of the description are action lines. As I kept reading, I realized that the writing style echoed the colorless, emotionless world of the story. Still, I got a very clear sense of the main character and place. When Lowry does switch to more description in the end, they are short and sweet. They tell us where we are and what Jonas is doing. She did an amazing job at conveying so much in a few lines.
Which do you tend to write more of: dialogue or description/action?