Recently I was reading a mystery where the heroine rented a "big ass pimp-mobile." There was no other description of the car whatsoever. I put the book down to ask my husband and kids just what those words meant to them. No one agreed on the make, model or color of the car, let alone the year. (My husband seemed to think some car he owned as a teenager was the only one ever made to fit this description. The only thing the kids agreed on is that they strongly disagreed with that.) According to them, the car was violently pink, glossy black, or even (unlikely as it seems to me) purple. I never picked the book up again as it bothered me that I could not see this car in my head. My kids tell me that is because the book wasn't aimed at my age-bracket. I'm thinking that's most likely true but still not an excuse.
This is a problem I have with description lately. People think that some popular term means the same thing to everyone and that will fill in for description. Sometimes it does--but I think it's mainly limited to "Beam me up, Scotty." And even then, I know a few Trekkies who think this is a sign of a kindred spirit --instead of a comment that they are living in whole 'nother world than the rest of us.
We all want to skip writing the parts that readers skip reading (with apologies to Elmore Leonard for mangling his quote) but you can't take shortcuts to writing good, taut, description. The picture in the reader's head won't ever be exactly the one in the author's head--no matter how you try. How many times have you seen a book made into a movie and been upset by the choice of actress for the lead? But think of the Harry Potter books and the way some readers (many adults) return over and over again just to visit that world. The description was a big and necessary part of the series.
It doesn't take much to take a reader out of our books. This whole, beautiful, chaotic, world is in competition with what we have to say. That's why we have to make our fictional world as real as we can. And have a little fun describing those pimp mobiles.
Christine Duncan is the author of the Kaye Berreano mystery series.