Descriptive writing should have a purpose. Very often students forget that descriptive writing has a function and that this involves supporting the narrative through
Descriptive writing requires tension to add texture and variety to the scene, thus affecting its reception. A very famous descriptive opening to a 19thCentury novel involves the evocation of London’s infamous fog, which shrouds the whole world in magical, even dreadful, ambiguity. Dickens’ Bleak House begins, with the evocation of London; filtered through the particular lens.
Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city.Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.
So descriptive writing can communicate sadness: loss, elation, winter, summer, cruelty, neglect, decay, weather changes, whatever, through the careful selection of particular words in a particular order.
Any story happens somewhere in some situation and time. Effective descriptive writing always involves sensory impressions and uses language techniques to intensify the message.
Read the extract below and consider the effects of the descriptive writing. What do you expect might happen next and why?
There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up;holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smooths and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind—wrapped tight like skin. Then there is a lonelinessthat roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive, on its own. A dry andspreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come froma far-off place. (Beloved, Toni Morrison).
The following excerpt is from The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
Behind one door, Tom Skelton, aged thirteen,
stopped and listened.
The wind outside nested in each tree, prowled the sidewalks in invisible treads like unseen cats.
Tom Skelton shivered. Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows’ Eve.Everything seemed cut from soft black velvet or gold or orange velvet. Smokepanted up out of a thousand chimneys like the plumes of funeral parades. Fromkitchen windows drifted two pumpkin smells: gourds being cut, pies being baked.
”And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.” ( T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock).
Carol Ann Duffy 15 ideas!
Bookshelf 2.0 developed by revood.com