Thursday, 22 April 2010

Take Two Women

Meet Muriel: "A moment later the other came out, the frizzy one. This evening she wore a V-necked black dress splashed with big pink flowers, its shoulders padded and its skirt too skimpy; and preposterously high-heeled sandals."

And Rose: "She was pretty in a sober, prim way, with beige hair folded unobtrusively at the back of her neck where it wouldn't be a bother. Her figure was a very young girl's, but her clothes were spinsterly and concealing."

Two descriptions of women, both from The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. Nothing has been said about their personalities, yet from the descriptions we feel we know them. Look at the language used for Muriel: frizzy, splashed, padded, skimpy, preposterously. And Rose: prim, sober, beige, folded, unobtrusively, spinsterly, concealing. I particularly like the use of verbs: splashed and folded. They sum up the two women's very different characters, and yet all Anne Tyler has done is describe how they look.

Sometimes, when I'm stuck with a scene, I get out my thesaurus and make a long list of words that sum up how I want the scene to feel. Then I have a go at writing, with the list beside me. I don't use all of the words of course, but it definitely helps to create the mood through description. Try it!

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