Sunday, May 6, 2012

Too colourful

In English class we learn about similes and metaphors. When we write teachers encourage us liberally sprinkle our writing with descriptive language. Great writing uses descriptions artfully, delicately. Just like a painter knows that skies contain many colors besides blue, white, grey, and black so the writer knows that the right words may not be the obvious description. I love a good description, but it should not stand out as a description good or otherwise unless your goal is to locate descriptions, it should blend into the story giving it a spice of color, but not a flavor discordant with the theme.
I started reading a book several days ago. I was initially excited to read it as it follows my favorite genre and appeared to have an interesting plot line. On the first page the voice of one of the characters is described, "he whispered in his steel-rasp and Southern-honey-pecan voice." A steel rasp is a fabulous description for a voice. I can hear the sound and anticipate the words that this character will say. A Southern honey pecan is also a good description. It reminds me of comfort and warmth. I became distracted, however, when both were put together. It jolted me out of the story as I tried to figure out what kind of voice could be both honey pecan and steely rasp. I continued reading. In the next chapter again this character's voice is described, "The man's voice was dry, like the rasp of a snake's belly against sand, but coated with a sticky Southern sweetness." This description stood out to me more because of previous one. Again, it jerked me out of the story. I had a hard time understanding and getting into the story because of the odd descriptions. These descriptions were entirely too colourful for me.
On a slightly different, but related note, the first sentence of a books is important. After reading the first sentence, you decide whether or not you will read the rest of the book. This was the first sentence of a book a just finished, "The first time she slit a man's throat she felt sick to her stomach." This is an engaging first line drawing the reader into the story, nearly compelling them to read onward.
The carefully laid word is powerful and can make or break a great storyline.

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