"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

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.


B.J. Anderson said...

This is great! You picked some very great excerpts here that really demonstrated your point. Can't wait for the next one.

Cindy said...

Thanks for the great post. The more and more I write, the more I realize how necessary "strong" words are. These are excellent examples!

The lady in Red said...

I love writing, although I am a Brazilian woman, I am an English and German teacher and I started a blog in English with ideas last January.
Best wishes,

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

love the examples! and thanks for a great, educational post. us new writers appreciate this kind of stuff.

Eric said...

These are great examples, but I had a question. At what point does description become too much? J.R.R. Tolkien for example, described things ad nauseum until you really just wanted to skip the paragraph to get to the action. So what do you do in order to balance description with movement of the story?

Sherry said...

Great post on adding the sense of sight. I will add this link on my blog for my followers!


Thanks 4 sharing!