Elmore Leonard always said, and I paraphrase, “don’t write the parts that no one reads (skips over).” Here is the written down version.
It’s weird though, about stuff like that. I know some readers that like the backdrops, but a good writer knows when enough is enough. Some don’t and drop too much, hurting the tempo of the story. I could mention many authors, but I won’t. My idea is that you must “poetically” condense a setting or background as short as possible. (This is where Hemingway shined before his brain damage from accidents and booze.)
Years ago when I wrote My Gun is My Passport, Gunther travels to Washington DC circa 1906. I decided to describe the 1906 train station (I had a few historical photos). I condensed the surroundings, “poetically.” I slaved over it a bit, I confess, painting it up, yet condensing it down. Some ten years later a “fan-reader” wrote me “out of the blue,” and described how much he liked “My Gun” and what did he pick to mention over this big, international action-epic? He said that he really loved the way I described the DC train station scene! Huh? What the____? That passing scene of getting the protagonist from point A to B?
It’s tricky trying to make every reader happy. My compromise is the poem approach. All the good, above-average books, action ones or otherwise, should be a poem without rhymes. Lyrics without music. I shoot for this and it…ain’t…easy. There is a beat and music to writing. The soundtrack to every scene. It’s a torture I guess must enjoy chiseling on?
(Speaking of Ernest, the photo above is Jane and me on Pilar, Hemingway boat in Florida. We did the Key West thing.)