Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Sense of Sight
A writer uses a visual description most frequently when painting a word picture. If done well, this will draw a reader into your fictional world immediately and make him feel as if he's right there with your characters, seeing what they see with his own eyes. As a writer, you must decide what is important to the scene and to the book itself. There are engaging and subtle ways to write a visual description. Here are a couple I'd like to share:
From Pasadena by David Ebershoff:
"The road cut through dormant pea fields and lettuce farms and a patch of shallots, passing an avocado orchard and a lemon grove protected by eucalyptus windbreak. It climbed a scrub-oak terrain burned gold in autumn where at hillcrest a rattler stretched belly-up in the sun. Thin, shabby utility poles stood across the fields like a line outside a poorhouse, and upon the drooping wires sat a family of garbage-fed gulls."
From The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón:
"A blue-tinted gloom obscured the sinuous contours of a marble staircase and a gallery of frescoes peopled with angels and fabulous creatures. We followed our host through a palatial corridor and arrived at a sprawling round hall, a virtual basilica of shadows spiraling up under a high glass dome, its dimness pierced by shafts of light that stabbed from above. A labyrinth of passageways and crammed bookshelves rose from base to pinnacle like a beehive woven with tunnels, steps, platforms, and bridges that presaged an immense library of seemingly impossible geometry."
I think the sense of sight works extremely well in these two examples because the authors used strong, well-chosen words for their descriptions and wove them together in a way that produced a clear image. They have also used an active voice that breathes life into the work, rather than a passive voice that might have left the descriptions stagnant and dull.
The second most used of our senses (at least in our writing) is sound. We'll take a look at that one next time.